Re­volv­ing loan fund now avail­able for en­trepreneurs

The Star Democrat - - BUSINESS & FINANCIAL - By DO­RIAN MITCHELL dmitchell@thekent­coun­

CHESTERTOWN — Busi­nesses in Kent County can take ad­van­tage of a re­volv­ing loan fund pro­gram to grow fur­ther.

Kent County Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Co­or­di­na­tor Jamie Wil­liams said the pro­gram is ad­min­is­tered through the Eastern Shore En­trepreneur­ship Cen­ter in Eas­ton.

She said the en­trepreneur­ship cen­ter has part­nered with the Kent County Com­mis­sion­ers, with each party pro­vid­ing $200,000 for the pro­gram. The com­mis­sion­ers set aside the money in the fis­cal year 2017 bud­get.

“They (the en­trepreneur­ship cen­ter) do all the pa­per­work,” Wil­liams said. “But we now have ac­cess to $400,000 for Kent County busi­nesses.”

How­ever, she said ap­pli­cants can only ap­ply for a loan be­tween a min­i­mum of $10,000 and a max­i­mum of $50,000.

She said an in­ter­ested busi­ness has to un­dergo an ap­proved process. First, it must work with a men­tor from SCORE, a vol­un­teer busi­ness aimed at help­ing other busi­nesses, to en­sure the pro­gram’s guide­lines have been met, like putting to­gether a busi­ness plan.

Af­ter the men­tor signs off on the plans, the ap­pli­ca­tion is sent to the en­trepreneur­ship cen­ter to be re­viewed. Af­ter re­ceiv­ing the cen­ter’s rec­om­men­da­tion, the com­mis­sion­ers have the fi­nal say on which busi­ness gets a loan.

“What busi­nesses can do is they can take ad­van­tage of this and piece to­gether loans for a big­ger project,” Wil­liams said.

She said two Kent County busi­nesses have re­ceived loans through the pro­gram, JR’s Past-Time Pub/Lemon Leaf Café and Ellen’s Cof­fee Shop.

Wil­liams said res­tau­ran­teur J.R. Al­free used his loan to make im­prove­ments in the restau­rants. The new own­ers of Ellen’s, Dar­lene and Bruce Neal, used theirs to pur­chase the build­ing and per­form over­all re­pairs and up­grad­ing.

She said one crit­i­cism of the re­volv­ing loan pro­gram is that it can be la­bor­in­ten­sive with its re­quire­ments, es­pe­cially on new or smaller busi­nesses.

“One thing they ask for is a pro­jected bal­ance sheet for three years, which is dif­fi­cult for new busi­nesses,” Wil­liams said. “I think we need to stream­line the process more. ... The re­volv­ing loan should be set up to fill the gap.”

She said Chestertown has a sim­i­lar pro­gram of­fered through the Greater Chestertown Ini­tia­tive; the “Open for Busi­ness in Chestertown” loan.

Ac­cord­ing to the Kent County Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment web­site, the loan is de­signed to “pro­vide ‘kick­starter’ fund­ing for new or ex­pand­ing busi­nesses with the goal of fill­ing empty store­fronts in the down­town.”

For more in­for­ma­tion on the re­volv­ing loan fund pro­gram, visit www.kent­ eco­nomic-de­vel­op­ment.

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