St. Clair County is getting into the commercial loan business, which really makes you wonder based on their past efforts in the world of business finance.
Up to $15 million might be used to help commercial ventures in blighted areas. The money is for big developments, such as housing atop old blighted property, and is only to close the gap in what the developer can borrow from the private sector and what the developer needs.
There may be very good reasons that a commercial lender won’t invest fully in a project. Why anyone thinks a government agency can better assess those risks and then risk public dollars is a real head scratcher.
Faith in the county to separate the boondoggles from legitimate businesses is not high. The area in greatest need of this investment, East St. Louis, has been a magnet for empty-pocketed dreamers of lighthouses, marinas and amphitheaters.
St. Clair County’s recent financing credentials: $40 million in MidAmerica St. Louis Airport debt was refinanced and turned into $88 million in debt.
Its recent development investments: $250,000 that vanished with a New York developer who was to build a warehouse at the airport; $6 million for about two years of flower flights; $3.5 million plus a free warehouse to get Boeing; $2.15 million to get produce flights.
We see more economic potential for leaving $3 million in a brown paper sack on the corner of Missouri and Collinsville avenues than we see from the county picking winning redevelopment projects.