Phil Castle, The Business Times
How does a business loan fund promote economic development in Mesa County?
Dean DiDario counts the ways.
The fund just passed the $20 million milestone in total financing allocated since its inception since 1985. That money in turn has leveraged an additional $58 million in financing from traditional lenders, helped 390 businesses start and expand operations and created or retained 1,875 jobs.
Those numbers add up to a substantial effort, said DiDario, who for 17 years as served as director of the Business Loan Fund of Mesa County. “I believe it is. It’s had a dramatic impact in the county.”
The loan fund offers financing to new and existing businesses in Mesa County for everything from equipment and real estate purchases to working capital and lines of credit, DiDario said.
Because the fund affords more flexibility than traditional lenders in considering collateral, credit history and other factors, financing is available to businesses that don’t qualify for loans from other sources, he said.
The goal is to offer greater access to capital to promote business and job growth, DiDario said. “We never lose track of what our mission is in the county, and that is to promote economic development.”
Over the nearly 30-year history of the fund, about 390 loans worth a total of more than $20 million have been issued. That makes the average loan about $52,000, he said.
However, those loans have been used to leverage an additional $58 million in financing, DiDario said. Loans from the fund help fill in gaps and reduce risk that makes financing from traditional sources possible, he said. “All of a sudden, the investment is a lot more attractive to the bank.”
More remarkable still, DiDario said, is the fact a total of $78 million has been loaned to Mesa County businesses since 1985 in lending and recouping over and over only about $5 million in the federal, local and private money that’s gone into the fund.
A total of about $2.9 million has been allocated to 60 outstanding loans, meaning about $2 million remains available for other loans, DiDario said.
Demand for loans from the fund has increased over the past three years, he said, in the aftermath of an economic downturn in which many people who’ve lost jobs have opted to go into business for themselves. Declining values for real estate — and, therefore, collateral — also have made it more difficult for banks to extending financing, he added.
In addition to its other benefits, the loan fund fits in well with the operation at the Business Incubator Center in Grand Junction. DiDario said. The center offers a range of services to new and existing businesses, including free and low-cost counseling and training as well as low cost space with shared services.
The end result, DiDario said, has been a string of prominent local businesses that have used the loan fund to grow their operations, among them Action Publishing, JG Management Systems and Western Slope Industries. K2 Taxi constitutes a recent addition to the list, he added.
“We’ve had a real impact,” DiDario said.
For more information about applying for financing from the Business Loan Fund of Mesa County, call 243-5242 or log on to www.gjincubator.org.