ACE’s Roots in Georgia
When CEO Grace Fricks started ACE | Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs in 1997, she was a social worker who knew very little about starting a loan business. She simply saw a need in rural North Georgia to provide capital, coaching, and connections to help borrowers create and grow sustainable businesses that generate jobs.
Today, ACE has provided more than $171 million in loans and thousands of hours of business advisory services to support over 2,300 small business owners and helped create or save 18,000+ jobs for Georgians. During the pandemic alone, the organization supported 1,500 businesses, and between now and 2027, ACE aims to do $300 million in lending. ACE envisions a future where gender and racial wealth gaps are diminished, specifically targeting African American and Latine communities. Beyond its humble beginnings, ACE has emerged as a trailblazer, bridging the gap between dreams and reality for countless entrepreneurs by providing vital resources and fostering a supportive ecosystem.
Fueling Economic Growth
In 2022, ACE left an indelible mark on Georgia's entrepreneurial landscape, spearheading transformative initiatives that propelled businesses to new heights. It facilitated the closure of an impressive $36.9 million in loans, which not only sparked the birth of new businesses but also played a crucial role in preserving the livelihoods of 2,096 individuals, stabilizing local economies, and fostering vibrant communities. Furthermore, ACE's dedication to entrepreneurs was evident in the provision of 285 loans, a testament to their firm belief in the immense power of small businesses as drivers of economic growth.
ACE's impact extended far beyond the provision of capital. Recognizing the multifaceted needs of entrepreneurs, ACE offered a comprehensive suite of services, including over 22,000 business consulting hours. Through personalized guidance, mentorship, and expert advice, ACE equipped entrepreneurs with the essential tools to navigate challenges, optimize their operations, and unlock their full potential for success.
A closer look: Supporting veterans in transition
In 2017, military veteran David Wayne Gallemore founded the Veterans Training Empowerment Center (VTEC) with a clear mission in mind. By partnering with industry leaders and customizing a training program, Gallemore sought to provide fellow veterans and their family members with the skills needed for guaranteed jobs, enabling them to support their families and enrich their lives. VTEC's training program, conducted on military bases across the globe, offers a comprehensive curriculum that equips participants to become versatile Home Engineers capable of repairing and maintaining a wide range of household and business equipment.
With ACE's support, Gallemore expanded VTEC and launched Gi-Techs USA, providing repair services for major companies. By providing support and resources to visionary entrepreneurs like Gallemore, ACE helps empower veterans, create jobs, and foster economic growth in communities.
Partnering with Truist Foundation for lasting impact
Truist Foundation, recognizing the transformative work being carried out by ACE, partnered with ACE to support its expansion into South Georgia through a $3.75 million investment.
This grant supports the crucial operations of a few dedicated staff members and provides two vital credit enhancements, namely interest rate buydowns and a loan guarantee. These enhancements have proven to be pivotal for diverse small businesses, enabling their growth and facilitating equitable access to capital. Leveraging the power of these credit enhancements, ACE has already supported 10 small businesses, resulting in the deployment of over $1.2 million in diverse and equitable capital.
Remarkably, 80% of these funds have been directed to Black-led businesses, solidifying ACE's commitment to reducing disparities and fostering inclusive economic opportunities. As a direct result of these efforts, over 100 jobs have been created or retained, making a tangible difference in the lives of individuals and the community at large.
As of April 30, 2023, ACE's impactful deployment of capital stands at just under $19.5 million, evidence of their unwavering dedication to supporting entrepreneurs and driving economic growth.
"Small businesses are the lifeblood of communities, family well-being, and our economy. And collaborations like this enable us to be on the frontlines helping them to not only survive, but to thrive." — CEO, Grace Fricks
Empowering South Georgia’s underserved
Going forward, ACE is embarking on an ambitious journey to extend its lending capabilities beyond its current 68-county footprint. Anchored in Tifton, the South Georgia office of ACE will serve as a strategic hub to meet the rising demands and support the growing needs of rural and underserved communities in the region.
Recognizing the pressing challenges faced by these communities, ACE is keenly aware of the stark reality that most of Georgia's persistent poverty counties are concentrated in South Georgia, which forms part of the region often referred to as the "Black Belt."
Expanding into South Georgia is not a small feat; it is a monumental undertaking that entails reaching out to 32 additional counties. These areas, characterized by their persistent poverty, have long needed support and resources to break the cycle of economic hardship. By establishing a presence in South Georgia, ACE is bringing hope and empowerment to communities that have often been overlooked or underserved.
By bridging the lending gap and providing critical resources, ACE aims to uplift small business owners, empower entrepreneurs, and create a ripple effect of positive change throughout South Georgia. This strategic expansion is driven by ACE's unwavering commitment to fostering economic growth and prosperity in every corner of Georgia.
About Truist Foundation
The Truist Foundation is committed to Truist Financial Corporation’s (NYSE: TFC) purpose to inspire and build better lives and communities. Established in 2020, the foundation makes strategic investments in nonprofit organizations to help ensure the communities it serves have more opportunities for a better quality of life. The Truist Foundation’s grants and activities focus on leadership development, economic mobility, thriving communities and educational equity.