Spanning the Region

MEDI Loan Programs Assist Kentucky Business Owners

The Minority Economic Development Initiative (MEDI) was established more than 20 years ago in Hopkinsville, Ky., to create and support an environment where all minorities can participate in economic opportunities. MEDI assists small business owners with business planning, financial packaging, feasibility assessments, pre- and post-technical counseling, procurement and certification assistance and much more. After 20 years of service, MEDI has now become MEDI of Western Kentucky, Inc., a 501(c)(3) organization covering four Area Development Districts. In February 2009, MEDI, in partnership with Christian County government, re-established its mini-loan fund for new or existing businesses.

Loans are provided to low- and high-risk clients based on a sliding scale. Loans range from $2,500 to $10,000. The first microloan was for the expansion of the Hopkinsville Child Development Center from an in-home daycare to a licensed commercial daycare. The development center is the first bilingual based facility in the region. It focuses on a dual language program through cultural activities, games, songs and books whereby children develop oral language skills in both English and Spanish.

Hopkinsville's Minority Economic Development Initiative is dedicated to serving all small business owners through education, training and financing. To find out more about MEDI, visit www.medi.hopkinsville.com or call 270-885-8885.

Montrose, Ark., Takes a Strategic Approach to Growing Businesses Though Access to Microcredit

Mayor Larry Coulter knows that financing small businesses in rural Arkansas is not easy. But he also knows growing locally owned businesses is critical to a successful economic development strategy for a rural community like Montrose, Ark., with a population of only 492. That is why he has developed a step-by-step strategy to encourage entrepreneurship that includes regional collaboration, increased access to technical assistance and access to microcredit.

Working with the surrounding Delta communities of Portland, Parkdale and Wilmot, Coulter has formed the Montrose Regional Commerce Project aimed at supporting existing microenterprises and growing new entrepreneurs. The project has established a resource center—a modified business incubator that includes training facilities, operating and meeting space, and technical capabilities such as Internet access. A broad scope of technical assistance and training is available through the resource center, from Internet marketing and bookkeeping to business analysis.

The hope is that through increased technical assistance and training, businesses will be positioned better to apply for and secure microcredit through SBA and USDA Microloan Programs. So far, this strategy appears to be working with one loan closed using the SBA Microloan Program in neighboring Hamburg, Ark., to expand a photography business, and five others from the region already in the pipeline. In addition, an outreach strategy is under way to educate local lending institutions on the importance of microcredit to the region's businesses.

Information about business development in Montrose, including subscription to its newsletter, is available by e-mailing att.mrcp@yahoo.com. To learn more about technical assistance available to small businesses in rural Arkansas, visit www.altconsulting.org or www.sba.gov/localresources/district/ar/index.html. To learn more about federal microloan programs visit www.sba.gov and www.rurdev.usda.gov.

Minority Business Microloan Program Available in Mississippi

The Minority and Small Business Development Division (MSBDD) of the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) is offering the Minority Business Microloan program with the goals of job creation and assistance to certified minority and women-owned businesses in Mississippi. The loan funds can be used for inventory purchase, working capital, machinery or equipment. It cannot be used as gap financing or along with any other type of financing.

The Minority Business Microloan is made for a maximum of seven years in amounts that range from $2,000 to $35,000. The interest rate is 4 percent above the Federal Reserve discount rate. Those applying must be creditworthy and able to repay the loan. Also, they must not be in default of any previous loan from the state or federal government. The industries that can apply are manufacturers, warehouses and distribution centers, and retail.

The mission of the Minority and Small Business Development Division is to enhance economic development by providing technical and financial assistance to minority-, women-owned and small businesses so they can compete more successfully for government and commercial contracts.

For additional information, contact MDA's Financial Resources Division at financial@mississippi.org or 601-359-3552. For assistance on becoming a certified minority- or women-owned business, contact MDA's Minority and Small Business Development Division at minority@mississippi.org or 601-359-3448.

Operation Bootstrap Spreads Seed Grant Funding in Southern Illinois

Entering into its third year of existence, Operation Bootstrap has extended $177,000 of seed grant funding through a micro-finance program established for budding entrepreneurs who seek to launch their businesses within the southern 16 counties of Illinois. The program, facilitated by the Southern Illinois University Entrepreneurship Center in Carbondale, Ill., and funded through support provided by the Delta Regional Authority, seeks to engage new ventures through a training program where participants develop skills necessary to launch and sustain the operations and activities of their new businesses. Each entrepreneur successfully completing the training program is eligible to apply to receive up to $3,500 in grant funding to invest into the development of their enterprises.

Operation Bootstrap has graduated 133 participants from the program, 55 of whom have received seed grant funding. "The impact our graduates are having upon the region is significant," notes Robyn Laur Russell, director of the Southern Illinois University Entrepreneurship Center. "The seed grand funding provided by Operation Bootstrap not only enables individuals to turn their own business plans into reality, it also creates an investment in the local economy of southern Illinois, and we are beginning to see job creation in several of our cities as a result of the program."

Kentucky License Plate Contest to Benefit Small Businesses

To emphasize the important role that Kentucky's small and microbusinesses have, the Kentucky Commission on Small Business Advocacy and Partners for Entrepreneurial Advancement in Kentucky Inc. (PEAK), a statewide, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to microenterprise development, are coordinating a specialty small business license plate competition. Recognized as an innovative community development idea in the St. Louis Fed's 10,000-Hour Challenge, the competition, which runs through Nov. 10, is open to any small Kentucky-based business with 50 or fewer employees. Proceeds collected from those purchasing a small business specialty license plate will be used to fund small business and entrepreneur development programs in Kentucky.

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