LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Zain Burke saw an opportunity and he ran with it.

Working in the real estate business, he had a lot of trouble hiring companies for small construction jobs. Three years ago, he opened Validity Construction Services. But he needed help. Burke wanted to hire an employee but — like a lot of small businesses — he didn’t have the money in the bank to take that next step.

Enter the Battle Born Growth Microloan Program (BBGMP). The state program has millions to loan, and they’re looking for “underbanked and underfunded” businesses just like Burke’s. Whether it’s for a piece of equipment, a new office location, a cushion to hire that new employee or some other need, loans of up to $250,000 are available.

What makes this loan program different? It doesn’t quit on businesses that are not quite ready to grow. And it’s paying extra attention to Hispanic-owned businesses. According to the Small Business Development Center (SBDC), nearly half of all small businesses in Nevada struggle to get loans, and nationally, Hispanic-owned businesses receive significantly smaller loan sizes on average compared to other businesses.

“The world of credit has changed, but the needs of small businesses have not,” according to Mendy Elliott, chief credit officer for the program.

Burke said, “Our goal was to be able to hire. We were looking for an estimator. We knew we wanted to grow and we wanted have that salary put away because that estimator’s going to bring a ton of value back to us. We didn’t want to wait because things were moving pretty fast. We were getting pretty busy and our construction cash flow is always in and out.”

From left, Zain Burke, Yesenia Jimenez and Vanessa Burke of the Validity Construction Services team.

Having the money in the bank to get someone hired allowed Burke to move forward.

“Once we actually get that person onboarded it’s going to pay huge returns for the company and give somebody a really good salary,” he said.

The Battle Born program is currently working to get $5.3 million in loans into the community, the first of three batches of loans that will total $15.9 million. The program is under the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED).

“There’s no charge. I want to make that very clear,” Elliott said. “This program, there is no charge to get the one-on-one guidance that that business might need. They’ll help increase their credit scores, they’ll establish the financial documentation process, they’ll put plans in place for growth, they’ll find mentors.”

In Elliott’s words, the mission is to help these businesses in “getting to a ‘yes'” — a loan approval.

Burke had been through the traditional loan process before he applied through BBGMP. He said the difference was noticeable.

“I really did not think that we would get that much support in the process of applying for this loan but we did. I would definitely recommend small businesses, minority business, women-owned business, all businesses of every kind to at least give it a shot,” he said.

“And if you don’t get through the first time don’t be discouraged there is a ton of support that they provide to help you get loan ready,” Burke said.

The program offers flexible, fixed-rate loans up to $250,000 to Nevada-based companies with 100 or fewer employees and $5 million or less in annual revenue that have been in business for at least one year. Elliott noted that how businesses use the money is very flexible. A news release notes two exceptions: the loan cannot be used for real estate investments or to support the gambling industry.

For more information on how to apply, go to https://nvmicroloans.org/.