$1 Million SmartSteps Microloan Program Earns International Recognition for Economic Equity & Inclusion


The Office of Economic Vitality receives their first Gold Award at the 2022 International Economic Development Council Annual Conference for the SmartSteps Microloan Program

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The International Economic Development Council (IEDC) recognized the Tallahassee-Leon County Office of Economic Vitality (OEV) SmartSteps Microloan Program with a Gold Excellence in Economic Development Award for Economic Equity & Inclusion. SmartSteps was launched in February 2021 in partnership with the FAMU Federal Credit Union to assist minority- and women-owned businesses (MWBEs) recovering from the devastating economic impacts of COVID-19.

SmartSteps logo

OEV Director Keith Bowers attended the IEDC Annual Conference in Oklahoma to accept the award:

“We are proud that OEV’s work to support our local, minority- and women-owned businesses resulted in our first Gold Award,” said OEV Director Keith Bowers. “OEV is strengthened by the support and flexibility of our community partners, like the FAMU Federal Credit Union. By working together to elevate MWBEs, we will continue to improve diversity and economic inclusion in Tallahassee-Leon County.”
OEV Director Keith Bowers

The IEDC Awards highlight economic development organizations who push innovation and change locally. The Economic Equity & Inclusion category acknowledges programs dedicated to improving the quality of life within a community through focused, innovative, and inclusive initiatives.

OEV conducted a business survey in June 2020, which found that 53 percent of MWBEs experienced a 50 percent or greater decline in revenue, compared to 39 percent of non-MWSBE businesses. As a result, OEV partnered with the FAMU Federal Credit Union to create the $1 million SmartSteps Microloan Program. SmartSteps offers microloans valued up to $50,000 and provides flexible opportunities for applicants with lower credit scores, smaller minimum loan amounts, and negotiable repayment terms.

Within the first two months of the program launch, the FAMU Federal Credit Union successfully administered approximately $883,000 of the initial $1 million. As of March 30, 2022—a total of 126 employees were retained by MWSBE businesses as a direct result of capital accessed through the program. SmartSteps was also awarded a NACo Achievement Award in the category of Community and Economic Development in May 2022.

SmartSteps is among many innovative strategies employed by OEV to better support and encourage the growth of MWSBEs in Tallahassee-Leon County. The IEDC Gold Award was presented a month before the upcoming 30th Annual Big Bend Minority Enterprise Development (MED) Week celebration, October 17–21. The event will feature a variety of engaging, informative, and empowering events that showcase the thriving MWBEs in the Big Bend region. Visit to learn more.

Photo of OEV Director Keith Bowers accepting the IEDC Gold Award for Economic Equity and Inclusion
Photo of OEV Director Keith Bowers accepting the IEDC Gold Award for Economic Equity and Inclusion
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