ATLANTA – A minority-owned bank, which has helped thousands of businesses across Georgia, has been given a lifeline to continue opening its doors.

Since its inception in 1994, Capitol City Bank & Trust Company has provided much-needed loans to individuals, churches and small start-up businesses that might otherwise have been overlooked by mainstream banks or lenders.

“Our presence is extremely important in communities where, in many cases, capital needed for business growth and development wouldn’t have been available,” said George Andrews, President and CEO of Capitol City.

The bank, which has five branches in metro Atlanta and three in offices in Georgia, has a customer base that is predominately African-American. “Not only do we help businesses, but the support we give provides jobs in areas where unemployment is above the national average,” he adds.

“Capitol City was the only bank that came forward to loan me the funds needed to expand and improve my business,” said Willie Watkins, owner of Willie A. Watkins Funeral Home, which now has four business locations across Georgia.

However, with the economic downturn, some of Capitol City’s loans went bad and the bank found itself on a Federal watch list. It needed more than $8 million to continue its mission to support urban and minority communities.

Up to half of that money will now come from SunTrust Banks, Inc., one of the nation’s largest banking organizations. For Atlanta’s SunTrust, the $4 million investment is a measure of goodwill to help support a bank that does much of its business in under-served communities.

The SunTrust investment also addresses some requirements of the Community Reinvestment Act, a federal law designed to encourage banks to meet the credit needs of low- and moderate-income communities where they operate.

While the SunTrust commitment is the largest investment, it has not been the only infusion of capital. Wells Fargo made a $600,000 equity investment to Capitol City Bank in 2010 and Capital City’s board of directors has provided more than $1 million in investment.

“It makes sense for big banks to support a market they are not serving,” said Andrews. So for instance, one of the services Capitol City offers is support and training for low income households who do not have bank accounts, he adds.

“We’re proud to invest in such a long-standing and important community partner,” said William H. Rogers, Jr., Chairman and CEO of SunTrust Banks.

“George Andrews shares our commitment to serving Atlantans, and we are pleased to support the institution he leads as it works to meet the financial needs of the urban and minority communities in the area,” said Rogers.

Michael Grant, President of the National Bankers Association, said, “When a mega financial institution like SunTrust decides to invest in a minority-owned bank, which is serving an under-served population usually ignored, this is cause for a celebration.”

“George Andrews is an innovative thinker who is always looking for new solutions for old problems,” adds Grant. “The NBA wants other major banks to follow the lead of SunTrust, if they have not already done so.”

The balance will come from other banks and private investors, said Andrews. “Sun Trust investment is a major endorsement and is helping bring other investors to the table.”

Follow Kunbi Tinuoye on Twitter at @Kunbiti