Calling all entreprenuers. St. Clair County has money to give and is looking for people to take it.
The $1.1 million in funds stems from federal programs aimed to create jobs and address poverty. County officials hope the money will help current and future business owners in need of a loan to expand or build new infrastructure.
Deli Star in Fayetteville took advantage of the low-interest loan program in 2005, and since then has doubled its work force.
The program provided the Deli Star Corp., a producer of cooked meats, with a $200,000 loan to expand the building and purchase machinery. The loan was the starting point of growth that helped the company grow from 24 to 50 employees, according to Deli Star owner Dan Siegel.
"Maybe, we could have gotten the funding at the bank but a 3 percent (interest rate) was more attractive and this was much quicker," Siegel said. "It's really a great program."
The loans were a catalyst for growth and the company expanded again in 2008, Siegel said. The company's building, located at 2516 Main Avenue, has also grown from 25,000 square feet when it began in 1987 to its current size of 60,000 square feet.
The loan program also helped jumpstart Tank Trailer Cleaning Co., and The Early Years daycare centers in Fairview Heights and O'Fallon.
Despite its past successes, the county has not found an eligible business in more than a year.
Part of the problem lies in the federal requirements businesses must meet, County Economic Development Director Terry Beach said.
For example, other financing sources must provide at least 60 percent of the project's funding and more than half the jobs created must be made available to job seekers of low to moderate income. The loan amount is limited to the number of jobs created -- with a cap of $200,000 per business.
The loan is intended to fill the gap between loans from a bank and remaining expenses, Beach said. The business owner also must contribute 10 percent.
Some businesses are not eligible for the loan, including taverns and liquor stores, salvage yards, financial institutions, trucking firms, retail businesses, beauty salons and restaurants. Beach said the program has previously appealed to those underemployed and unemployed seeking to begin their own business.
For those needing help crafting a business plan required for the loan, the Small Business Development Center at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville can lend a hand. The center has offices in East St. Louis and Edwardsville, and is supported by the federal Small Business Administration, Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and SIUE's School of Business.
For more information about the county loan program, call St. Clair County Economic Development Department at 618-277-6600, ext. 2670. To reach the Small Business Development Center, call 618-650-2929.
Contact reporter Daniel Kelley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2501.