Michelle Xiarhos Curran, ECCF Communications Writer
Small and micro-businesses create jobs, drive community and urban revitalization, and foster local wealth. But oftentimes, they do not qualify for the loans they need to start or sustain operations.
This winter, a new permanent regional loan fund will help nonbankable businesses in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover secure the capital need to stay in business.
Building on the Merrimack Valley Business Relief work started in the wake of the Sept. 13, 2018 gas disaster, the $1.6 million Small Business Resiliency and Venture Fund will offer micro-loans (less than $100K) from a pool assembled from the contributed capital of 10 banks in the region. Additional support will come from Mass Growth Capital Corp (MGCC) and the Lawrence Partnership.
The loan will be headed by Mill Cities Community Investments (MCCI), a proven regional provider of commercial lending and services focused on bridging the lending gap in low-to-moderate income communities.
“This effort – accelerated by the gas disruption in Greater Lawrence and building on the great work of the Lawrence Partnership, MCCI and MGCC – is a key component and effort of Essex County Community Foundation’s Empowering Economic Opportunity (EEO) project to move the needle on income inequality in Essex County,” said Stratton Lloyd, COO and vice president of community leadership at ECCF. “We are thrilled to play a role to help amplify this work, and anticipate that it is a start to a larger countywide small business effort.”
During the acute phase of the gas disaster recovery, small businesses in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover were able to secure a combined $500,000 in 0% emergency loans through MCCI. This new permanent fund will help enhance the resiliency capacity of the entire Greater Lawrence business community and give small businesses the chance to prepare for future stresses and shocks.
“This fund could be a game-changer for small businesses in the Merrimack Valley,” said Derek Mitchell, executive director of the Lawrence Partnership. “It’s a challenge for small businesses to survive and thrive under normal conditions, but when faced with an unexpected loss of inventory or infrastructure, it’s nearly impossible.”
“The impact of the gas disaster will make many businesses that were bankable last year non-bankable this year, so the need will be high,” he added.
MCCI has been working to build a pipeline of possible loan candidates across the three communities, and throughout the fall will continue to hold accounting and bookkeeping workshops as part of the business relief efforts. In addition to providing the technical support small businesses need to recover and thrive, it also provides MCCI with an invaluable opportunity to get to know the small businesses that help form the fabric of Lawrence, Andover and North Andover so that they can continue to identify possible loan candidates.
“We’re starting this permanent program in Greater Lawrence, but our long-term goal is to establish a countywide venture collaborative,” said Lloyd. “Small businesses are so important to our communities and their economic sustainability. And we have to work together to make sure they continue to have the opportunities and resources they need to be successful.”
For more information about Empowering Opportunity, visit eccf.org/EEO.