Apr 03, 2012 09:32 AM EDT

Starbuck's Job Creation Fund Finds First Partners


Google Offers and Banana Republic are the first businesses to join Starbucks Corp in raising money for a U.S. job creation fund started by the world's biggest coffee chain late last year.

Starbucks and the Opportunity Finance Network (OFN), a group of private financial institutions that make affordable loans to individuals and communities, introduced the "Create Jobs for USA" fund in October amid what Starbucks Chief Executive Howard Schultz said was a lack of national political leadership on unemployment.

"We can't wait for Washington. We need to do more on our own," said Schultz, who said he is in discussions with other potential partners about expanding Create Jobs for USA.

The fund already has raised more than $7.5 million and the two new partnerships could bring in another $4 million. The total of that would support about $80 million in lending - enough to help create or sustain more than 3,800 jobs, Starbucks told Reuters.

The U.S. unemployment rate has been above 8 percent since February 2009 and touched a high of 10 percent in October that same year.

Google Offers, a Google Inc business which competes with daily deals company, Groupon, will raise up to $3 million by selling $10 Starbucks vouchers at the discounted price of $5 each. It will donate $3 from each voucher sale to the job creation fund.

Banana Republic, a unit of Gap Inc, will donate up to $1 million from purchases made during two four-day sales events planned for later this year. The first sale to benefit the fund is slated to begin on April 19.

Money from the fund already is being put to work and Josh Davis, owner of the Gelato Fiasco in Brunswick, Maine, is among the business owners to have benefited.

Davis had a problem last year when his bank pulled a verbal financing commitment after he had signed a 10-year lease for a second gelato store in Portland, Maine.

A lender with funding from Create Jobs For USA stepped up with a loan of more than $100,000, enabling Davis to open the store in January. It now has six employees and is preparing to hire more for the busy summer season.

"It was absolutely critical," said Davis, who faced the prospect of trying to borrow from family and friends or arranging alternative financing that would have cost more and taken longer.

"Who knows whether it would be up and running right now," said Davis, who now is donating $1 from the sale of pints of a limited-edition gelato flavor to support the fund.

Starbucks CEO Schultz created a political buzz last year when he called on his peers to withhold campaign donations to the president and members of Congress until a deal on the country's debt, revenue and spending was reached.

Schultz, who returned Starbucks to growth after slashing costs and closing nearly 1,000 cafes around the globe, also asked fellow business leaders to pledge to step up hiring.

For its part, Starbucks this summer will begin selling coffee mugs made at a once-dormant factory in Northern Ohio. Many of the coffee mugs and other products the company now sells are made in China.

The coffee company also plans to build a factory in Augusta, Georgia to produce VIA instant coffee and ingredients for its Frappuccino drinks. That project is expected to create 140 U.S. manufacturing jobs, plus more than 100 construction jobs.

Schultz said Starbucks is committed to locating the new plant in the United States, even though it would have been "significantly more attractive" to build it in a lower-cost country.

"If we believe in this, this is what we have to do," said Schultz, who repeatedly has said that he has no interest in a government job - elected or otherwise.

"I feel like I can do a lot from the position I'm in," the CEO said. "I have no plans to be anywhere else."

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