By allocating $585,000 for grants, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation continued its efforts to provide financial assistance for minority-owned businesses, Gov. Scott Walker announced in a statement Wednesday.

WEDC spokesperson Mark Maley said the grants are directed to several areas. Grants from the WEDC Minority Business Development Program will go to five organizations, The Business Council and Wisconsin Chambers of Commerce for Africans, American Indians, Hispanics and Hmongs.

These organizations can use the funds to help startup minority businesses obtain loans and disperse money to get businesses started.

“The other aspect of this is providing mentorship and training and really helping individuals who either want to start a business or grow a business, really help get them in the right direction,” Maley said.

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WEDC is public/private agency funded by the state with the main goal of promoting economic development in Wisconsin. Even before WEDC’s 2011 creation, Wisconsin had a minority initiative.

The corporation awards the grants annually, and Maley said this program has grown much bigger since its inception amid the economic recession.

“It’s really a positive trend, and people want to take advantage of that to start their own businesses,” Maley said. “We want to support those people in any way possible.”

Last year, the WEDC’s grants helped businesses obtain $5.9 million in private loans, which is expected to create or keep approximately 200 jobs, according to Walker’s statement.

Most of the grant money will go to small businesses in underserved areas, Maley said.

“If you’re, for example, in the city of Milwaukee and in a neighborhood that’s below the poverty line or that’s struggling a little bit, it may be tough to get funding or to really know where to start,” Maley said. “So these minority chambers work directly with the businesses on a wide variety of things.”

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Maley said one of the most important services they offer is helping businesses find the money to get off the ground in the first place. They also provide information on navigating government requirements, attracting new customers and utilizing social media.

WEDC’s priority is making sure there are opportunities for entrepreneurs everywhere in the state, Maley said.

“Sometimes minorities face unique challenges in obtaining financing and getting started, and we just want to make sure that they have the support they need to pursue their dream of starting their own business and growing their business,” Maley said.