Regional Business Fund, Inc. Launches “Downtown Façade” and “MicroLoan” Loan Programs for Area Municipalities

Municipal Law Alert, February 2008

The Regional Business Fund recently announced the inauguration of two new loan programs that may be of interest to area municipalities. These programs are available to most municipalities located within a seven-county area of western Wisconsin – Barron, Chippewa, Clark, Dunn, Eau Claire, Polk, and St. Croix counties.

The “Downtown Façade” Loan Program is intended to provide incentives and financial assistance to encourage business owners in historic downtowns of west central Wisconsin to revitalize commercial buildings located in those downtowns. Startup (new) business owners may also be eligible for this program as well, provided they can meet certain qualifications. Downtown Façade loan funds would typically be used for façade renovation, signs, awnings, windows, exterior doors, graphics or lighting, and landscape improvements. Loans are available in amounts from $5,000 to $30,000, at 0% interest, for a term not to exceed fifteen years. Area municipalities can set up downtown revitalization committees which then apply for lending authority under the program. Those committees which meet the qualifications will then have authority to review and approve local loan applications which meet the program requirements.

The second loan program is the “MicroLoan Program.” This program is designed to provide small loans to start-up, newly established or growing small businesses. A key objective of this program is to make funds available to business owners who may have difficulty obtaining financing through traditional avenues. Priority will be granted to business entities which show the greatest need and can demonstrate an ability to repay the loan. Loan funds can be used for working capital, inventory, machinery and equipment, furniture and fixtures, supplies, leasehold improvements, building renovation, land acquisition and natural disaster recovery. Loans can range in amount from $5000 to $25,000, at 4.00% fixed interest, with terms not to exceed ten years (the term of working capital loans cannot exceed three years). Area municipalities which comply with the program requirements will be given lending authority in this program as well. One committee can be created to consider applications under both programs.

Municipalities which pooled their Community Development Block Grant Funds into the recently created regional fund will have first priority to loan funds. Other communities may have access to loan funds as fund balances allow.

The West Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (WCWRPC) in Eau Claire is serving as agent for the Regional Business Fund in administering these loan programs. Further information can be obtained from Char Gurney or Beth Waldhart at WCWRPC (715-836-2918), or from area County Economic Development Corporation Directors.

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