City of Blaine launches loan program for local businesses

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The city of Blaine is offering a new loan program for local businesses to help them get through the economic challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Beginning Thursday, May 14, Blaine-area businesses will be able to apply for six different loan options. The options are one-year, two-year and three-year loans in the amount of either $5,000 or $10,000. The interest rates will be 0 percent for the one-year loans, 1 percent for the two-year loans and 2 percent for the three-year loans. The city expects to start disbursing funds approximately five to six weeks from now.

The application window will be open for three weeks, ending June 3 at 5 p.m. The city only has about $100,000 in funds that it can lend, so between 10 and 20 loans are possible, and applications will be ranked using a 100-point system. The city has established a three-member board consisting of Bonnie Onyon, mayor of Blaine; Michael Ebert, managing partner of Fortiphi Insurance and president of the Blaine Chamber of Commerce; and Dave Freeman of AMS Print and Mail. Each board member will assign points based on various criteria, and the points will then be averaged and a priority list developed based on demonstrated need.

To be eligible to apply, businesses must be located in Blaine’s electric service area. In other words, if the business is located inside city limits or pays its electricity bills to the city of Blaine, then it is eligible to apply. There is no charge for submitting an application, although successful applicants will have a $100 processing fee tacked onto the principal balance of the loan.

“I would like to emphasize that we really tried to respond rapidly to the challenge of Covid here and the suddenness with which it impacted our community to make these funds available as soon as possible,” said Alex Wenger, community planner with the city of Blaine.

The city Community Development Services department will do an initial review to determine that applications are complete and thorough, and then the applications will be forwarded to the three-member board. The application requires various information including the names of the company’s owners, investors and managers; a statement of why the loan funds are needed and how they will be used; monthly profit and loss statements and balance sheets over the last 12 months; and a projection of revenue and expenses.

Up to 30 points will be awarded for this business plan information. Other points will be awarded based on the number of jobs created or saved; the amount of tax revenue the business generates; a description of how the loan will provide a benefit to the public; and other factors including a company’s uniqueness to Blaine’s economy and character.

The city will also require a statement that the RED loan application is being submitted in good faith, and that the applicant intends to repay the loan and maintain business operations while contributing to the economy of the local community.

In the event of a tie when ranking applications, the application received first shall be prioritized so that the loans are made available on a first-come, first-served basis.

In order to apply, business owners should complete a loan application available at the city’s website, cityofblaine.com, and email it to awenger@cityofblaine.com.

The program is based on the city’s previous Rural Economic Development (RED) revolving loan program, which was established in 1999 to support business start-ups, improvements and capital projects but was discontinued around 2011.

Several weeks ago, Blaine city council passed a resolution recommencing the loan board. The city has about $100,000 in available funds, which are actually electric utility state tax monies. While municipalities are not allowed to lend credit, state law allows cities to hold and manage this money for economic development purposes, and the city’s attorney recently performed due diligence and determined that this new program is consistent with state law.

“The city of Blaine is providing these funds to local businesses as part of the city’s rapid relief response to the economic impacts of Covid-19 in our community,” Mayor Onyon said in a statement. “We ask that businesses which only truly need these funds now, apply for these loans. The RED Loan Board intends to reopen the loan application towards the end of the year, provided loans are repaid and funds are available.”

Normally, a program like this would take many months to develop, but city council and staff worked to put it together as fast as possible, said Wenger. “It’s been a challenge to create essentially a new program with new criteria and we did it in the fastest manner possible because we wanted to be responsive to the business needs in the community,” he said. “During the ‘Stay Home, Stay Safe’ order, it was very challenging to set up a new program where we’re going to take in a lot of applications, possibly 50 or 100 or more.”

For any questions, please contact Alex Wenger at 360/543-9979 or awenger@cityofblaine.com.

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