First Tennessee Bank is investing $5 million to help launch the Memphis Small Business Opportunity Loan Fund, a $17.5 million lending program aimed at improving access to capital for minority- and women-owned businesses.

The fund is a collaboration between nonprofit entrepreneurship hub Epicenter, Pathway Lending – a regional nonprofit community development finance institution (CDFI) – and other Memphis financial institutions. First Tennessee is part of the Memphis-based First Horizon National Corp. (NYSE:FHN) family of companies.

“We are proud to support small business owners, who are the backbone of our economy,” said Bo Allen, First Tennessee’s West Tennessee president. “One way we’re doing that is by improving access to capital for women and minority business owners in Memphis. We believe that when our small businesses thrive, our communities prosper and grow.”

The fund, administered by Pathway Lending, will be available to small business owners in the Memphis region who may not qualify for traditional bank business loans. Loans may range from $5,000 to $1,000,000 to support growth opportunities, and clients will have access to technical assistance from business advisors.

“Epicenter is focused on adding and scaling resources for entrepreneurs in our community, especially as it relates to capital, and making it easier for local entrepreneurs to fund their businesses,” said Leslie Lynn Smith, Epicenter president and CEO. “This fund is a flexible and affordable way to support entrepreneurs and business owners – particularly in communities of color – with capital at a critical time in their growth.”

The fund aligns with First Tennessee’s recently announced $3.95 billion community benefit plan to increase access to financial resources within low- to moderate-income (LMI) communities. As part of the plan, First Tennessee is formalizing referral relationships to CDFIs for businesses denied a loan by the bank or not yet ready for traditional bank financing.

“While we have an existing portfolio of clients in Memphis, we see tremendous opportunity in this new partnership with Epicenter to reach more entrepreneurs in this region, and provide a stronger set of tools to help unlock their growth potential,” said Travis Hughes, VP of Lending and Clients Relations in West Tennessee.

“We’re dedicated to growing the economy and building wealth in underserved communities, and we’re thrilled to bring that dedication to Memphis.”