Polk County establishes program for small business loans

Published 8:00 am Saturday, May 26, 2018

COLUMBUS — Small businesses in Polk County who may not have previously been able to qualify for loans will now have that opportunity.

Polk County has established the Polk County Community Capital Fund, a partnership between the Polk County Office of Economic Development and Carolina Small Business Development Fund that will allow small business owners an opportunity to apply for loan capital with more flexible underwriting guidelines than traditional lenders.

Polk County Commissioners met Monday and heard from Polk County Business Development Director Brian Griffin about the new program.

Griffin said Carolina Small Business Development Fund started a $500,000 fund for small businesses in Polk County.Griffin said CSBDF is a statewide lender.

“This is just another product to allow more businesses to get access to capital,” Griffin said to the commissioners. “I’m just very excited to be bringing this information to you.”

CSBDF is a nonprofit and a Community Development Financial Institution that lends to start-ups and existing businesses across the state. CSBDF said it focuses on businesses that have difficulty accessing financing through traditional lending sources.

County Manager Marche Pittman said the county needs to get the information out to the county’s small businesses who think there is no way they can get funding.

Pittman also said in changing the position from economic developer to business development director, these types of help for existing businesses was the county’s intent.

Commissioner Ray Gasperson said Polk County has structured its zoning to encourage entrepreneurship. Gasperson said he knows of no other county that allows businesses to have a building at their residence the way Polk allows in some zoning districts.

“I don’t even know of another county that has what we have,” Gasperson said. “It’s a way of trying to trigger entrepreneurship.”

To qualify for a business loan from CSBDF, the business has to be for-profit, located in Polk County and owners must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, according to CSBDF guidelines. Start-up businesses can be considered subject to increased underwriting scrutiny. Businesses still must demonstrate ability to pay back the loan, good credit and management history, among other requirements.

Some businesses are prohibited, including adult oriented businesses, nightclubs, bars, hotel/motels, tattoo parlors, body-piercing shops, check cashing, pawn shops, car sales lots and gambling establishments.

For more information about the new program, contact Griffin at bgriffin@polknc.org or 828-894-2895.