Fifth Third makes donation to the Collective Empowerment Group. From left are Mark Walton, Fifth Third Bank; Jackie Moore, Collective Empowerment Group; and Gene Ellington, Collective Empowerment Group. Provided

Fifth Third Bank recently gave the Collective Empowerment Group of Cincinnati $65,000 to assist with their business development training program. The program, set to launch in February, is designed to help African American-owned businesses that have been in existence for at least two years to become ready for marketplace opportunities. The training program will use an asset-based model to enhance the business owner’s ability to grow and sustain their business.

Components of the training are to include an overall skills assessment of the business owners, an analysis about what type of business model suits them best, organizational management, financial management, marketing and promotion and the importance of community service through their business.

Mark Walton, vice president and regional community and economic development manager at Fifth Third, said that the Bank’s contribution will make a difference in the lives of those who enroll in the training. “These dollars will allow CEG the opportunity to continue to grow and develop business owners in our region. This gift and our partnership with CEG represent the collaborative nature of the Bank, and it shows that we are dedicated to working with organizations that make a positive impact in our local economy through the success of small businesses.”

As a part of the Bank’s five-year, $30 billion Community Commitment, Fifth Third is dedicated to improving its lending to small businesses with gross annual revenue below $1 million in all markets and communities. The commitment includes increased support for small businesses, product innovation, and enhanced underwriting and fulfillment. The $65,000 gift to CEG Cincinnati is a part of the $10 billion small business-lending commitment.

Gene Ellington, president of CEG, Cincinnati, said the group is focused on creating a vibrant and thriving African American community. “Economic power is neither lost nor diminished; it simply transfers,” he said. “If African Americans acquire the knowledge that they need to run small businesses, they will be on the receiving end of that transfer.”

Ellington said he is optimistic about the relationship that CEG and Fifth Third are building. “We are pleased to have the Bank’s support for CEG and for the training that we will be hosting. We are seeing the Bank actively invest in the community, and as a result our economy is changing. If we can continue to change the economy, we will change the culture.”

The national CEG was formed in 1993 to address concerns raised by pastors and church members in Prince George’s County, Maryland, and other parts of the District of Columbia area about inequitable access to services provided by local banks and businesses. Since its inception, the CEG has steadily grown to its present membership of more than 150 churches that represent over 200,000 people. Since 2004, CEG member churches have been approved for more than $300 million dollars in loans and have on deposit in excess of $130 million dollars with area banking partners.

The Cincinnati CEG chapter was started in 2008. During its nearly 10 year history, the local organization has 23 member churches and 45 strategic business partners. The group exists to assist local small businesses on their growth and development and to assist the community with self-empowerment as it relates to housing, jobs and personal financial literacy.

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