By Johnny Magdaleno.

On Sept. 26, the U.S. Small Business Administration announced it was putting its weight behind a new initiative for helping minority entrepreneurs break through some of the longstanding barriers that have stifled their access to capital. It’s called the Partnership for Lending in Underserved Markets (PLUM), and it’ll bring local businesses, politicians and researchers together in Los Angeles and Baltimore, the first trial cities, with the hope of rolling out a national model before the end of the decade.

Its focus: Dive deep into the American communities most dense with minority-owned businesses, draw out data and trends that really paint a picture of how discrimination keeps them from reaching their full potential, and work with federal, city and state governments to draft brand-new methods that can help give these business owners more economic mobility.

The SBA has pushed out a small number of programs focused on lifting up minority-owned businesses, likeLGBT Outreach and the Council on Underserved Communities, since the start of the decade. But data on this growing and influential sect of entrepreneurs shows that an initiative like PLUM is still desperately needed.

Black-owned businesses, for example, have been some of the slowest to recover in the wake of last decade’s financial crisis. In 2013, black entrepreneurs were awarded a sliver of the SBA’s 54,000 business loans, at only 2.3 percent. That number represented a drop from 11 percent of the SBA’s loan profile back in 2008.

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