Thursday, August 12, 2010

Contractor Assistance Loan Program Invites Pre-Applications

~Program to support working capital needs of under-utilized local businesses, especially minority, women and disadvantaged business enterprises ~

The city of Richmond's Office of Minority Business Development (OMBD), and Department of Economic and Community Development (ECD) are inviting local businesses to submit pre-applications for financing under the newly created Contractor Assistance Loan Program. The loan program represents one of several measures being implemented by the administration of Mayor Dwight C. Jones to address the ongoing challenges confronting under-utilized small businesses and entrepreneurs. Access to capital is a persistent problem for many enterprises, and the Contractor Assistance Loan Program is designed to help those entities that would otherwise lack the financing necessary to pursue contract opportunities in the public or private sectors.

Earlier this year, Mayor Jones established a new department of Economic and Community Development (ECD) to move the city toward a comprehensive economic and community development model. The Office of Minority Business Development was also recently strengthened to ensure that minority- and locally-owned firms are afforded greater opportunity to participate in city projects and develop the required capacity to successfully pursue work in the private market place.

"As we work to develop economic opportunities in Richmond, it is important to ensure that no one is excluded," said Mayor Jones. "Providing access to capital is a necessary step toward strengthening our infrastructure of smaller local employers, and also improving the overall business environment."

The new loan program, funding for which was approved by Richmond City Council as part of Mayor Jones's FY2011 budget, will also help foster procurement opportunities for urban entrepreneurs. OMBD is ready to accept pre-applications at this time. The pre-application is a critical prerequisite to determining who may be eligible to advance to the formal loan underwriting stage. The first round of loan approvals will likely be completed in September. The Contractor Assistance Loan Program has initially been capitalized with $1 million, and individual loans will generally be in the $25,000 to $100,000 range.

"The Administration is fundamentally changing the paradigm for economic development programming for the city. In addition to continuing our keen focus on attracting and retaining primary employers, we are also pursuing best practices-centered approaches to bolstering small businesses and neighborhood revitalization. This program is reflective of this new, comprehensive approach to economic development," said Peter H. Chapman, Deputy Chief Administrative Officer for Economic and Community Development.

Last month, Mayor Jones named a new, cabinet-level director for OMBD. Vicki Rivers, a seasoned economic development practitioner, not only directs the city's minority business development efforts, but also supports the neighborhood revitalization programs and objectives of ECD. Additionally, Ron N. Johnson, a well-regarded loan fund manager and former banker, has been appointed as a member of the executive management team of ECD, serving as the agency’s Chief Financial Strategies Officer. Both Rivers and Johnson will factor prominently in the Administration’s economic development efforts.

Interested contractors should contact Debra Moore at OMBD at 804-646-3985, or via e-mail at debra.moore@richmondgov.com.

The pre-application package can also be accessed at: www.richmondgov.com/content/MinorityBusinessDevelopment/Forms.

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