Mi­croloan pro­gram nears start date

Cecil Whig - - LOCAL - By BRAD KRO­NER bkro­ner@ches­pub.com

ELK­TON — Ce­cil Cat­a­lyst, a re­volv­ing loan pro­gram for small busi­nesses man­aged by the Depart­ment of Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment, is near­ing its launch, pend­ing its ap­proval by the Ce­cil County Coun­cil.

The county cur­rently op­er­ates a re­volv­ing loan pro­gram, but Chris Moyer, direc­tor of eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, pur­sued an over­haul of the pro­gram, which he called “un­der­used.”

Con­tain­ing roughly $400,000 in county and state funds, the re­volv­ing loan pro­gram can be used by small busi­nesses for fa­cade im­prove­ments, equip­ment pur­chases and other cap­i­tal in­vest­ments.

Af­ter busi­nesses make their in­vest­ment, they pay back the loan over time with an in­ter­est rate of 50 per­cent of the prime rate.

How­ever, Moyer said the fund is be­ing un­der­used.

Cur­rently, there are just two out­stand­ing loans with a bal­ance of around $37,000, ac­cord­ing to Su­san O’Neill, eco­nomic de­velop- ment man­ager. The two busi­nesses are Aquafin, an Elk­ton-area man­u­fac­turer of water­proof­ing ma­te­ri­als, and Op­er­a­tive Ex­pe­ri­ence, a North East busi­ness that sim­u­lates sur­gi­cal pro­ce­dures.

“The money’s not do­ing any good sit­ting in the cof­fers,” Moyer said. “The money’s been there for a very long time.”

Bob Pals­grove, fi­nance chair of the Ce­cil County Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Com­mis­sion and se­nior vice pres­i­dent of WSFS Bank, worked with Moyer to de­velop the pro­gram.

“It’s com­ing soon,” Pals­grove said. “We have a pretty ro­bust pro­gram. Hope­fully we kick off in the next month or so.”

Pals­grove em­pha­sized that the loan is only for small busi­nesses, not big busi­nesses like Ama­zon.

“This is for the lit­tle peo­ple,” he said. “Those 1,000 peo­ple at Ama­zon need to get a sand­wich or a hair­cut some­where.”

The pri­mary dif­fer­ence be­tween the ex­ist­ing pro- gram and the new pro­gram is the ad­di­tion of a mi­croloan pro­gram com­po­nent, Moyer said, ex­plain­ing that loans will range from $5,000 to $75,000, al­low­ing more busi­nesses to take out smaller loans to suit their needs.

Moyer said that giv­ing the loan pro­gram a higher pro­file is another pri­or­ity.

“We need to mar­ket it better” and “shout it from the rooftops,” Moyer said.

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Small busi­nesses like those on Elk­ton’s Main Street stand to ben­e­fit from the county’s re­volv­ing loan pro­gram, which will soon be re­de­vel­oped and re­named “Ce­cil Cat­a­lyst.”

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