Small businesses participating in the Louisiana Department of Economic Development’s micro-lending program have another lending opportunity to consider.

Accion Inc., a micro-lending organization with offices in Texas and Louisiana, has been given unanimous approval by the Louisiana Economic Development Corp. to operate in the LED small-business development program. The LEDC board of directors met Friday with six of the 11 board members present.

Accion has been operating in Louisiana since 2009 and has offices in Shreveport, Alexandria, Baton Rouge and New Orleans. The lender is a non-depository banking service, which receives funding through federal grants, foundation gifts, interest payments and other sources, said Celina Pena, vice president of business support at Accion.

Other micro-lenders operating in the state include the Good Work Network and Xavier University Entrepreneurship Institute, both in New Orleans, as well as Renewal Inc. in Monroe, according to the Association for EnterpriseOpportunity, an industry organization.

Micro-lenders generally loan small amounts of money to borrowers with little or poor borrowing history and are denied by conventional banks.

“Basically, those who are denied by a bank are provided an opportunity — really, a second look, if you will — through our organization,” Pena told the LEDC board.

Accion’s loans are anywhere from $500 to $250,000. A person’s credit score matters little when it comes to qualifying for an Accion loan, said Pena, adding the amount of the loan and collateral are larger factors.

“So we really want people to have skin in the game,” she said. “We have a 95 percent retention rate, so a very, very thin margin of defaults.”

Interest rates for the loans range between 8 percent and 18 percent, Pena said.

Roughly $1.7 million has been dispersed by Accion in Louisiana, with the average loan size at $12,000, say officials.

“This is like buying a hood for an oven, or a used car or van so someone can transport their services from one place to another,” Pena said, describing some of the applications business owners use the loans for.

The hope, said Pena, is that Accion’s customers will grow their business and credit, allowing them to qualify for other lending opportunities.

“We support individuals by building and establishing their credit,” Pena said. “We want people to turn around and have opportunity after they have used one of our micro-loans — with other banks, traditional banks.”