Rural communities face their own particular challenges, among them a difficulty in keeping businesses open.
One reason it’s diffiuclt to stay open — or even get started — is sub-par access to loans. According to Mary A. Chicoine, former chairwoman and board member of the Verde Valley Regional Economic Organization and current administrator and Revolving Loan Fund director, many banks are shy about lending to small businesses due to the perceived risks.
Fortunately for area businesses, the VVREO recently made another stride forward in helping entrepreneurs make their dreams reality. On June 17, Chicoine announced that the VVREO had received $605,000 of federal loan and grant funding to benefit small business owners of the region. The funding will be distributed through VVREO’s Revolving Loan Fund, which assists aspiring small business owners.
“The intention of both programs is to provide financial resources to companies that otherwise would not have access to capital,” stated VVREO board member Casey Rooney via press release. “A major component of the program is the requirement that companies receiving funding will add value in the form of jobs and business growth for our local Verde Valley region.”
The current addition to the Revolving Loan Fund is made up of two different funding mechanisms from the United States Department of Agriculture. The first is the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program, a low-interest loan of $500,000 to be used as a lending mechanism for local businesses. The second is the Rural Business Development Grant, a $105,000 grant to be used for technical assistance.
Of the $500,000, VVREO can lend a maximum of $50,000 for each loan to companies with 10 or fewer employees.
“The real beauty of this program, and the Revolving Loan Fund in general, is that it’s specifically targeted at small businesses and those that may be at greater risk,” Chicoine explained, adding that the loan and grant allows avenues for businesses to succeed and be sustainable. “Rural communities need those businesses.”
Chicoine, who has been with the VVREO in a number of capacities, said that the beauty of the organization is that it is almost entirely run by volunteers invested in seeing local businesses succeed.
Rooney stated that businesses can apply any time for the funds, which are now available. Chicoine added that other funding avenues are available, as well, allowing hopeful applicants a number of avenues to get the money they need.
“We can review a loan package within a few days and report back to the applicant if they meet our requirements,” Rooney continued. “If they meet our requirements, we expect the average loan processing time to not exceed 90 days.”
“We are proud to offer small business owners the opportunity to achieve their dreams, to help them grow and to help create jobs in the Verde Valley,” VVREO Chairwoman Jennifer Wesselhoff stated. “It’s a great time to be an entrepreneur in the region.”