St. Paul is offering $500,000 in low-interest loans for businesses that create jobs in the city’s poorest neighborhoods.

The Job Opportunity Fund, a pilot program that launched Tuesday, will provide loans on a first-come, first-served basis for businesses in areas of concentrated poverty. Businesses can get up to $10,000 for each full-time job they create, with a total loan of up to $100,000. Money will come from the 2018 budget of the city’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA).

“This program has a unique opportunity to impact both the lives of expanding business owners and their future potential employers,” Council Member Chris Tolbert, who chairs the HRA, said in a statement. “St. Paul is growing at a rapid pace, and we aim to provide the benefits of that growth to everyone.”

Areas of concentrated poverty are neighborhoods where 50 percent or more of the residents are people of color, and 40 percent or more have family or individual incomes less than 185 percent of the federal poverty level. The unemployment rate for those areas is 11.9 percent — more than double that of the rest of the city, according to a census data analysis by the city’s Planning and Economic Development department.

“The Job Opportunity Fund allows us to target job growth in the areas of our community that need it most,” Mayor Melvin Carter said in a statement. “The fund is aptly named, as we strive to see opportunity exist for everyone in St. Paul, regardless of their zip code or skin color.”

Businesses that receive loans will be allowed to put the money toward a range of uses, including inventory and equipment purchases, building improvements and working capital. Each business must stay open and keep the same number of jobs for five years, and new businesses must provide a business plan and monthly income and cash flow projections for three or more years.

To learn more about the Job Opportunity Fund, visit