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Planners: Pooling resources means more aid for business

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River Falls, 54022
Hudson Star Observer
715-386-9891 customer support
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

Regional planners are proposing combining small revolving loan funds into a pool of about $14 million to help west central Wisconsin businesses expand and to assist new businesses that move here.

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"There are lots of these little pools of funds, and some of them don't get used," said Ann Raid, a senior planner for West Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission. "It's a very large amount of capital."

WCWRPC planners will meet over the next couple of months with local revolving loan committees, county boards and other governmental bodies to outline the plan and hopefully convince them to join the pool, said Raid.

She said a combined fund could amount to $12 million to $14 million available to businesses throughout the seven-county region.

In an effort to help private businesses create jobs by expanding or relocating to Wisconsin, the state's Department of Commerce operates the Community Block Grant program. The loans come from Commerce but are repaid to the local government -- county, city, village or town -- which in turn sets up a revolving loan program to finance other economic development projects.

Currently every community with a revolving loan program has its own committee to make loan decisions. Each committee has access only to the money in its loan fund.

Raid said WCWRPC planners have spent the past several months meeting with members of loan committees and developing a strategy for managing a pooled fund.

"They wanted to have as much local control as possible," she said of the reaction from the committees.

"Everyone is worried that someone else is going to take their money and it's going to go somewhere else," said Raid. But, she said, there is enough money in the revolving funds and enough coming in that lack of money shouldn't be a problem.

Each local committee would continue to approve micro loans and loans for downtown fa?ade work. But applications for technology loans and loans of over $150,000 would go to a committee of representatives from each county.

The planning commission is developing software to allow businesses to apply for loans and communities to track applications and loans online. Also committees will be notified when applications are received.

"There will be a lot of electronic communication," Raid said.

She said so far eight of the 31 area communities with revolving loan funds have agreed to join the pool.

The WCWRPC district encompasses seven counties: St. Croix, Polk, Dunn, Eau Claire, Chippewa, Barron and Clark. The planning commission already provides administrative services to about half of the area communities that have revolving loan funds.

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