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Case Study

Grant-Funded Revolving Loan Fund

Marion, AL


Marion’s historic main street district, centers on one of just four antebellum courthouses still in use in the state of Alabama. It was a site of protests and advocacy for black voter rights during the civil rights movement. Most famously, the murder of Jimmie Lee Jackson by state troopers in Marion is cited as the impetus for the Selma-to-Montgomery marches.

Marion has experienced decades of disinvestment and population loss, one third of their persons are in poverty, and the median household income is $27,000. Despite these challenges, Marion was seeing active small business entrepreneurship and growing interest in restoration of its unique architectural heritage. In 2021, a local team led by the Main Street Marion (MSM) organization partnered with OPAL to strategize revitalization of the historic downtown area. Marion had seen success with its facade grant program but was seeking a more sustainable way to support small businesses. Through CGA, OPAL built partnerships with local leaders and helped Main Street Marion develop a plan for a Revolving Loan Fund to support small businesses in this historic district. By 2022, OPAL had helped Main Street Marion and Marion Community Bank to write and submit a successful grant application to USDA for $150,000 to capitalize that Revolving Loan Fund. With the help of the Marion Community Bank, Main Street Marion will launch the program with a series of educational finance programs for small businesses, and begin distributing the first loans in 2024.