County leaders heard requests from residents during last fall’s public meetings on the Shannon Hill industrial park to pay more attention to the needs of existing and home-grown small businesses, rather than focus on attracting large corporations from elsewhere.
Andy Wade, Louisa County economic development director, addressed the issue at the board of supervisors’ Feb. 19 meeting. He suggested the county create a $250,000 revolving loan fund to help small entrepreneurs buy equipment, improve their property, or qualify for bank financing.
Borrowers would be expected to pay back the county within three to four years through increased tax revenue derived from the business’s growth, Wade said. How many years a borrower would have to pay off the principal and interest on a loan depends on the nature of the investment. Businesses could apply for up to $30,000 or 25 percent of the cost of their project, whichever is less.
A committee of five to seven members of the Louisa County Chamber of Commerce and Lake Anna Business Partnership who work in the financial sector, as well as two supervisors and the county administrator and economic development director, would evaluate loan applications. All would be voting members except staff. The group would recommend recipients to county officials, who would determine whether to issue funding.
Wade pitched a similar proposal to the board in 2013, but the idea didn’t take off. At the time, at least one board member’s objection was that the supervisors wouldn’t get to decide themselves which businesses to award money.
The 2013 proposal limited loans to businesses with 20 or fewer employees. Wade did not suggest a similar restriction when he addressed the board last week, saying he would fill in more details if the supervisors show support for the fund. He noted that the federal government considers businesses with several hundred employees to be small.
“I don’t think Louisa County would consider a 600-employee company to be a small business,” Supervisor Duane Adams (Mineral district) said.
Despite the strong economy, there is a definite need for financial aid to small businesses from a source other than banks, according to Mark Smith, who recently was elected Lake Anna Business Partnership’s president.
(Article by David Holtzman)
This is a partial article. Read the full story in The Central Virginian’s Feb. 28, 2019 issue.
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