Small businesses in the region have felt the strain and uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that has made it hard for owners to grow their businesses.
As a way to help spur local economic development and to stimulate job creation, the South Central Ozark Council of Governments (SCOCOG) offers a revolving loan fund capitalized through the Economic Development Administration under the U.S. Department of Commerce. It gets its name from the rotating nature of lending process, which allows new loans to be made as old loans are being settled.
SCOCOG Economic Development Specialist Darci Malam explained that, because of temporary relaxed restrictions and an increase in funding from the federal government, the agency has a little over $900,000 in funds available to lend to small businesses in its region, which covers the counties of Douglas, Howell, Oregon, Ozark, Shannon, Texas and Wright.
“If they meet the qualifications, we can offer a loan for up to $100,000 at an interest rate of 3.25% for 10 to 15 years,” said Malam. “These funds can be used to purchase equipment, land acquisition, building construction or reconstruction, or pay for employee educational training.”
For every $35,000 loaned out, she added, the business is also expected to create one full-time position or two part-time positions as a stipulation of agreeing to the loan.
Malam also explained that, right now, SCOCOG can work directly with small businesses to offer the loans. In the past, the loans had to be worked through local banks.
“We are not competing with local banks,” Malam firmly stated. “The small business owners have to try their banks for a loan first, and if they are denied, then we can possibly help them.”
She said the rules for the revolving loan fund have been changed in response to the pandemic, in order to help streamline the application process and possibly make funds available faster for small businesses.
“Once the process starts — and everything goes right — it takes about two months for the business to receive the loan,” said Malam.
To begin the loan process, after the local bank avenue has been exhausted, Malam suggests contacting her first through email at email@example.com or by calling the SCOCOG office at 256-4226.
An application will have to be filled out and submitted; the fee to process the application is $250, which can be refunded, prorated, anytime during the application process if the loan is denied. There is also a 2% origination fee once the loan is approved. For example if a business is approved for $100,000, the fee will be $2,000.
She also said that, during the application process, the small business owner will have to work with Darrell Hampsten, local coordinator with the Missouri Small Business Development Center in West Plains. Together, Hampsten and the applicant will develop a plan, demonstrate the need for the funds and show how they will be used.
Unfortunately, the revolving loan fund isn’t available for small businesses in financial trouble or ones that cannot pay money already owed.
“The reason this loan isn’t for struggling small businesses is the government expects to be repaid on the loan,” Malam said, explaining that it’s an essential feature for the fund to be replenished by repayment to allow for future projects to be funded.
“The focus of the revolving loan fund has been economic development and job creation,” Malam said.
According to her, since the inception of the SCOCOG program in the mid-1980s, a total of 89 loans have been made and have been responsible for creating over 900 jobs, in addition to saving another 450 in the seven-county region.
“If you’re a local small business owner or a viable start-up needing help to get off the ground, the revolving loan fund can help with funding certain projects,” Malam said.
For more information, call 256-4226 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.