EDC loans available to Benzie businesses; but unused funds go back to the state

BENZIE CO. – The Benzie County Chamber has announced that loan opportunities are available to new and existing businesses through the Benzie County Economic Development Corporation (EDC). This year, the EDC has $650,000 available through its Revolving Loan Fund (RLF).

“The Chamber has recently taken on the role of providing information about this viable lending option for Benzie County businesses,” said Carol Davidson, Executive Director of the Benzie County Chamber of Commerce. “The Chamber will market and publicize the program for the EDC, which is a natural role for us since our mission is to build the economy and collaborate with other organizations that support the economy.”

The RLF has contributed to the success of several Benzie County businesses since its inception. Primarily focusing on residents in the low- to moderate-income brackets, the fund’s main objective is the creation and retention of employment in the private sector.

Graceland Fruit Co. is a prime example of a business whose growth can be attributed to its use of the RLF. The Frankfort company, founded in 1983 with three full-time employees, has been the recipient of three different RLF loans over the years. The company’s first loan, $600,000 in 1988, was used to purchase and install its first tunnel dryer.

“This dryer put us in the business of commercially drying fruit,” explained Don Nugent, president of Graceland. “Today, Graceland has 180 employees. This loan had significant impact.”

The objectives of the RLF are twofold. The first is to stabilize, develop and diversify the Benzie County economy by providing employers with capital either to start a new business or to expand an existing business. The second objective is to encourage productive reuse of vacant, obsolete and blighted land and buildings through redevelopment. The RLF fills in the gaps existing in local financial markets, attracting capital that would otherwise be unavailable for development.

Jack Gyr, president and owner of Field Crafts, Inc. in Benzonia, used the RLF for the first time during the mid-1980s to help start his business and to increase its workforce during an economic downturn. Gyr again turned to the RLF during the late 1990s to help launch a new product.

“The main purpose of the loans is to create jobs,”said Gyr. “The loans are typically for hard goods, not for advertising or exhibiting.”

Nugent stressed the importance of businesses in need applying for the available funds.

“If the EDC does not have borrowers apply for loans through the RLF, then the dollars have to be turned back over to the State,” he said.

“The application process, since it is at the local level, requires less paperwork and time than if you were going through the State,” Nugent added. “If the RLF can remain in Benzie County, we can create good jobs for good people. The fund will continue to grow (through paid-back interest) and more money will become available for future borrowers.”

“The bottom line for the EDC is to increase jobs,” says Davidson, “The RLF helps work toward that by promoting business expansion and development.”

How to apply

The EDC expects an applicant to have a good business plan in place, demonstrating its potential for increasing employment in Benzie County. The EDC’s loan fund committee is available to help with the application process and to ensure that the company is in a good financial position prior to borrowing.

The EDC targets manufacturing companies, commercial business, retail businesses, tourism-related businesses and the development of new facilities in officially designated industrial parks and industrial/commercial districts.

Applications are accepted on a year-round basis. For more information, contact the Benzie County Chamber of Commerce at 231-882-5801. BN