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Conference details business opportunities

By Staff, 07/9/21 11:00 AM

PRESCOTT – Those looking to start a new small business, or get help with an existing one are in luck.

The 2021 Rural Business Development Conference was held Friday morning at the Nevada County Library with the speakers telling what’s available for small businesses.

As Clevon Young, the executive director of the Arkansas Human Development Corporation, said, it’s all about creating and sustaining jobs.

Prescott Mayor Terry Oliver welcomed everyone, reminding them every day is a learning experience. Jamie Hillery, executive director of the Prescott-Nevada County Chamber of Commerce also welcomed everyone, saying COVID-19 created a challenge for business last year, and made things tough, but local business owners changed how they do things to keep going.

The morning session, Breakfast with Lenders, was all about how anyone looking to start a small business or maybe expand one, could get the funding they need. Herb Lawrence, lender relation specialist with the United States Small Business Administration (SBA), facilitated the session.

Craig Calafanti, senior vice president with the Arkansas Capital Corporation Group, said this is a private, non-profit lending corporation that partners with banks to help get money where it’s needed. the ACCG has been around since 1957 and works with conventional, SBA, 7A and BMI loans, partnering with the SBA on 504 loans for second mortgages, along with bringing foreign investors in to help fund large projects. The corporation, he said, looks for experience, an investment of capital from the business owner, a well thought out business plan and how the money will be used.

Kevin Tillman, with Communities Unlimited, followed saying CU is a community financial institution like a small bank with different lending guidelines. It can make loans up to $100,000 at 6 percent interest for qualified borrowers up to seven years. CU has 10 management facilities that analyze business, help with business plans, online marketing and Google sheets to help reduce accounting costs. It also looks at the owners credit history, proof of concept for the business, whether there’s a local need for the business or service and the owner’s financial statement.

Lauren Brown, retail loan officer with Farmers Bank and Trust, said she’s been in banking for 13 years, and has been doing loans for the past 18 months. What Farmers looks for, she said, is how well the business plan has been thought out, where the revenue will come from, what the expenses might be, research into the industry in question, why it would work in this area, financial and cash flow statements, collateral risks and how much of a down payment the owner can make. Farmers also checks the owner’s credit history and requires the borrower to personally guarantee the loan. Brown added there’s no canned way to do loans as they vary customer to customer.

Zola Finch, with Rural Missouri, Inc. (RMI). talked about the different types of loans RMI can help businesses with. She said there’s been a 35 percent increase in loan requests since last year. RMI, she continued, works with the 504 program for real estate financing and can also help finance equipment purchases. If a business is renting or leasing at least 51 percent of the building it’s in, RMI can help the business buy the building. To do this, the owner must put up a 10 percent down payment, while a loan for 50 percent will be obtained from another lender and 40 percent will be fronted by RMI. Fixed rate loans up to $250,000 can be made by RMI as well, she added.

Steve Mosher, program coordinator with the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development (USDA), was next up and pointed out the USDA partners with the SBA to help businesses get going. The USDA, he said, has 32 different rural development programs and helps build communities from the ground up, helping with loans, information and technical assistance. It also has programs to help people with housing issues, including housing preservation grants and community facility programs. The USDA, he said, can do almost anything a community needs, including water and waste programs, community connect programs, rural broadband access, distance learning grants, electric programs, energy programs and rural business programs.

Shane Meador, executive vice president with the Bank of Delight, said the Bank of Delight primarily deals with agriculture and forestry loans, but also offers loans for real estate, equipment financing and lines of credit. Like the others lenders, he told the audience, the Bank of Delight also checks the borrowers credit history, tax returns, credit report and how much the borrower can put down. The bank, he continued, works with the SBA and did $6 million in PPP loans last year. The six lenders at the bank, he pointed out, have more than a century of lending experience and can take the FSA program from start to finish. The bank has a $4 million lending limit, but has partners who can help if larger loans are needed.