Not long after he was elected to the Kansas City, Mo., city council in 2011, Scott Taylor initiated a series of community meetings to learn from residents and business owners what local officials could do to stimulate economic development.

What he heard repeatedly, in 17 meetings around the city, was that mom-and-pop operations desperately needed help in obtaining financing. Many budding entrepreneurs told Taylor and his colleagues that they wanted to grow their businesses but were unable to do so because they didn't qualify for conventional bank loans.

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