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Starbucks starts fund to spur U.S. job creation

Oct 3, 2011, 5:25 a.m.
Poeple walk past the Starbucks outlet on 47th and 8th Avenue in New York June 29, 2010. REUTERS/Lily Bowers

By Lisa Baertlein

(Reuters) - Starbucks Corp CEO Howard Schultz, decrying a lack of leadership in Washington, said his coffee store chain is helping launch a nationwide fund designed to stimulate U.S. job creation.

Starbucks on Monday introduced the "Create Jobs for USA" fund in partnership with Opportunity Finance Network, a group of private financial institutions that provide affordable loans to low-income people.

Schultz called small business an engine for job growth that has stalled and said small entrepreneurs must have access to credit so they can hire again.

"Businesses and business leaders need to do more, we can't wait for Washington," Schultz told Reuters in an interview, adding that Americans deserve better leadership.

The founder and chief executive of Starbucks created a political stir in August when he called on business leaders to withhold campaign donations to the president and members of Congress until a "fair, bipartisan" deal on the country's debt, revenue and spending was reached.

Schultz said he has been frustrated by political dysfunction in Washington and called on people in positions of power to "put their feet in the shoes of people who are being left behind."

Labor figures due on October 7 are likely to show the unemployment rate stuck at 9.1 percent in September despite near-zero interest rates. Some 30 percent of the jobless have been out of work for at least a year.

While he has inserted himself into the national political debate, Schultz said he has no political ambitions.

"I have no interest in politics or political office. I'm just doing this as a private citizen trying to make a difference," he said.

Starbucks said every $5 donation to "Create Jobs for USA" will generate $35 in financing for local businesses. The fund will be seeded with a $5 million donation from the Starbucks Foundation.

Moody's Analytics Chief Economist Mark Zandi said the fund will be helpful to small businesses having difficulty securing loans in a tough economic climate.

As of November 1, the fund will accept donations online and at 6,800 U.S. Starbucks cafes. Donors who give $5 or more will get a wristband inscribed with the word "Indivisible."

Starbucks will cover Opportunity Finance Network's administrative costs and pay for the wristbands.

Starbucks has about 107,000 U.S. employees, according to its most recent annual report.

(Reporting by Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles and Phil Wahba in New York; Editing by Derek Caney and John Wallace)

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