The South DeKalb Business Association (SDBA) kicked off its business year by installing a new board of directors and presenting information on DeKalb County’s Community Development Small Business Loan Program at its Feb. 27 meeting at This Is It restaurant in Lithonia.
For the third time in the organization’s 40-year history, Delphyne Lomax-Taylor took the reins as board president. “I was president 20 years ago and 10 years ago,” Lomax-Taylor said. “Now is an especially exciting time to lead this organization again. There are great opportunities for business right now and we want to be there to support the establishment and growth of businesses in our community,” she said.
Material distributed by SDBA notes, “The events of 2017 have provided a new awakening for SDBA. This organization is becoming keenly aware of the need to make real contributions to business development in our community. Therefore we are re-doubling our efforts to make SDBA more viable than ever. We seek new members with new ideas and the zeal to make them reality. We recognize that it requires business owners, entrepreneurs and those seeking to start businesses to grow the economics of south DeKalb. It is not all about bringing in major businesses to locate in our community; they come and they go. It is all about building local businesses that call south DeKalb home and will stay and contribute to the wellbeing of our community.”
Bryon Campbell, manager of grants and administration for DeKalb County’s Community Development program, along with colleague Barry Williams reviewed details of its new small business loan program.
“The federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) agency has three pillars,” Campbell explained. They are homes, living environment and economic opportunity. People sometimes forget about the economic development component, but that’s what we want to focus on today.”
Williams noted, “We want people who are serious about business, who are willing to put in the hard work to build and sustain a business.”
The loan program is available to existing and start-up for-profit businesses and can provide between $15,000 and $35,000 that may be used for equipment, machinery and supplies, real estate acquisition, construction, renovation or rehabilitation. Loan money also may provide working capital for the purchase of inventory, engineering and environmental testing, legal expenses and other uses, according to a brochure distributed at the meeting.
Loan eligibility, Williams said, “is not a numbers game where we just look at credit scores and assets. We look at the whole picture. If, for example, someone is interested in opening a restaurant we look at whether he or she knows the business—knows how to order food, run a kitchen and manage a staff. That person may have never operated a restaurant before but if he or she has worked in a place to learn the business that person will receive strong consideration.
“The interest rate never exceeds 5 percent and, as I’m sure you know, that’s pretty much unheard of,” said Williams, who added that it’s possible to qualify with a credit score as low as 560.
The program is designed to provide below market fixed asset financing to new and existing small businesses that want to do business in DeKalb County, according to the county brochure, which also states, “This program also establishes a platform for creating and retaining jobs for the county.”
The county is operating the program in partnership with Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs (ACE), a nonprofit organization that has provided loans and business consulting services in Atlanta and North Georgia since its founding in 1999.
“ACE is the perfect partner for us,” Williams said, adding that ACE will work with borrowers even if their need exceeds the county’s $35,000 limit.
Another partner in the program is Urban League of Greater Atlanta. Erica Bracey, special programs manager of the organization’s entrepreneurship center, noted that the Urban League is conducting 10-week programs to help business owners. “Sometimes you need to take time from working in your business to work on your business,” she said.
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