Last updated: August 23. 2013 8:48AM - 27 Views

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LIMA — An old program aimed at helping the state’s small businesses is getting some new support.Ohio Treasurer Richard Cordray spent most of the past week crossing the state with Roger Geiger, Ohio executive director of the National Federation of Independent Business promoting the state’s GrowNOW program. The small-business loan program has been in place for more than 20 years, but has seen little use over much of the past decade. Cordray hopes to see that change.“To me, that was a tremendous missed opportunity. We have a good small-business program that has fallen into disuse,” Cordray said.The program allows Cordray’s office to set aside up to 12 percent of the money the state invests into local banks. The state then agrees to take a 3 percent reduction in the interest rate they would normally receive. In exchange, the bank reduces loans to small businesses by that amount. Given the current state budget, the available money should be between $400 million and $500 million. There was about $18 million in the program when Cordray took office, he said.“I think this is an important program to get up and rolling. Small business is a sector of the economy that is largely ignored, but I think it’s largely the engine of the economy,” Cordray said.In addition to promoting and pumping more money into the program, Cordray wants to make sure it is as easy to use as possible. Businesses can apply through local banks or online. The application takes about a half-hour to fill out and applicants get a response in 48 hours.“I was a small-business man myself, I understand how burdensome it is for any business to have to wade through paperwork or wait on a reply. We want to keep this as simple as possible,” Cordray said.Geiger said the NFIB supports the program because it is the rare example of a program aimed at assisting small businesses.“We usually don’t ask for a lot of things from government. There are not a lot of economic development programs aimed at small business. When you look at most of those the state does, they tend to be giveaway programs, tax abatements and big economic development packages. This isn’t that. It’s a strategic use of taxpayer dollars to help them expand,” Geiger said.To qualify, a business must be approved by its bank and agree to create or save one full-time or two part-time jobs for every $50,000 requested. The state evaluates the business during the length of the loan to ensure it lives up to the loan requirements, Cordray said.“We do go out to monitor these businesses and if they do not make a good-faith effort to meet their job targets … we can yank their subsidy,” Cordray said.

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