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Crawford RLF program has loaned more than $850,000

Program continues to open doors for businesses

July 10, 2013
Since the beginning of the recession, economic funding opportunities for small businesses and start-ups have been difficult to come by, but, thanks to the Crawford County Revolving Loan Fund, many local business owners have been able to get a boost.

Crawford County's Revolving Loan Fund was established in 1999 when a $185,500 grant was awarded to the Crawford County Economic Development Corp. from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration.

The funding also included $97,500 in local matching funds from the purchase of Neighborhood Assistance Program federal tax credits by three banks within the community, matching funds from Crawford County and administrative services from Indiana 15 Regional Planning Commission.

Don DuBois, the county's director of economic development, said the banks' ability to match the funds was integral to the fund's ability to create change.

"They really stepped up to the plate," he said.

That grant and the matching funds were then used to distribute small loans to businesses owners who were in need of gap funding and who agreed to repay the money over time.

Currently, the Crawford County Revolving Loan Fund has more than $200,000 available for lending, and three kinds of loans are available: fixed-asset loans for expansion of existing businesses, working capital loans for businesses that need short-term assistance to complete an expansion program, and venture capital loans for a portion of start-up costs for new businesses unable to attain funds through traditional methods.

The repaid loan funds are used to make more loans. It creates a revolving door effect, with money coming in and going out at a steady pace.

This year, the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development Program awarded the Crawford County Revolving Loan Fund a Rural Business Enterprise Grant in the amount of $77,000. This is the third time Rural Development has awarded grant dollars to the county's Revolving Loan Fund, having supplied $43,000 in 2004 and $95,000 in 2008.

The Revolving Loan Fund program is administered by Indiana 15 Regional Planning Commission and is headed by a board of directors that is comprised of 10 individuals from the county.

That board has been working for several years to help find ways to fund local businesses and create jobs without utilizing the over-taxed county funds. Primary goals of the board and the fund are to create new jobs and help business retain their current status or expand based upon their changing needs.

The Revolving Loan Fund program is not a replacement for traditional lending methods, but it is a place where business owners can go to supplement traditional loans and fill in any "holes" they may have.

"Primarily, the reason for the fund is for gap financing," DuBois said. "It's not to take the place of the bank. If the bank can loan 80 percent of a project and the business owner can't get the 20 percent that they need, we can help with the 20 percent."

He said the loans they approve can often make a big difference to business owners and sometimes help them keep the doors open.

Since the Revolving Loan Fund's inception, more than $850,000 has been loaned, with 60-plus full-time jobs having been created because locally-owned businesses were able to get on their feet or expand.

DuBois described the impact of small businesses within the county as "tremendous."

"We have an economic multiplier effect," he said. "If we have an average of $20,000 for 60 people, that's $1.2 million in payroll, and, if you take a relatively low multiplier of five, that's $6 million dollars worth of impact in the county generated by just this program."

DuBois said the job opportunities generated by recipients of the Revolving Loan Fund will increase investments and disposable revenue within the county and can enhance the possibility that related industries will locate to the area.

"Quite often, industries look at the quality of life in an area," he said. "Small businesses, like day care centers, good restaurants, repair shops, are quite often very important to them and influence if an industry will locate to your area."

Established businesses and new entrepreneurs who would like more information on how to apply for a loan should contact DuBois at 739-2248, don@selectcc.com or 6225 E. Industrial Lane, Leavenworth, IN 47137.

Businesses seeking funding must exist in or be relocating to Crawford County.

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