Revolving loan fund now available for entrepreneurs
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.kentcounty.com/ economic-development.