Small business microloan fund replenished

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County makes $50,000 available
By: 

Warren Bluhm, wbluhm@newmedia-wi.com

The Oconto County Board voted unanimously to allocate $50,000 from its 2018 contingency fund to replenish the small business microloan program operated in conjunction with the Oconto County Economic Development Corp.

The program provides low-interest, three-year loans of $1,000 to $10,000 for start-up, newly established or growing small businesses.

Paul Ehrfurth, OCEDC executive director, told the board that the microloan program has filled a valuable niche for businesses that otherwise might not be able to obtain needed credit.

“I think a lot of these small startup businesses are not going to be in a position to create jobs immediately, and we don’t have a job creation requirement with the microloan program,” Ehrfurth said, “and a lot of the projects that these smaller startups have are smaller in terms of size and scope.”

The program has helped seven companies with microloans, including three or four businesses with storefronts in the city of Oconto, he said.

A USDA grant of $44,000 from the USDA has been “completely and totally expended,” and although those funds eventually will be returned via loan paybacks, Ehrfurth said the additional $50,000 would allow dollars to be available as needed.

In response to a supervisor’s question, Ehrfurth said no business has yet defaulted on a microloan, and a couple have actually been repaid early.

Administrative Coordinator Kevin Hamann said the county started the year with a contingency fund of $250,000, and the current balance is $181,000.

“We are at the end of the year. We would not be spending any more money, so we would still have $131,000 left in our contingency at the end of the year, which is very good for us,” Hamann said.