Tyrone Borough & ABCD Corp. Create Micro-Loan Program

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Our First Frontier Mountain Main streets are robust combinations of businesses all working diligently to succeed whether they are legacy companies or a new start-up venture….they all have the full support of their community that share their desire to see all businesses succeed here in Blair County. In our northernmost main street, the Borough of Tyrone has recently partnered with ABCD Corp. to assist our smallest of entrepreneurs through the creation of a Micro-Loan program specific to the borough.  This revolving fund is designed to help current and future businesses realize their dreams and be a vital part of the community.

As published in the July 18, 2020 edition of The Daily Herald by Abeena Harbst

Tyrone Borough Council this week agreed to continue pursuing a micro loan program for Tyrone Borough as proposed by the Altoona Blair County Development (ABCD) Corp. to help startup and existing businesses.

Stephen McKnight, president and CEO at ABCD Corp., outlined the program for council members, saying it was an opportunity presented to ABCD by local businessman John Russell and the Chamber of Commerce.

In December, ABCD had established a micro loan program in partnership with the county and put together criteria. “There is a very large need recognized across the county for smaller loans, less than $20,000, for smaller businesses to further their enterprises,” McKnight said.

Russell brought the localized idea to ABCD, asking for help in administering the program, accepting applications, and doing underwriting. ABCD staff can handle those aspects, and house the loan program, but direct the funds to businesses located in Tyrone Borough and model the framework after what has already been established. A bank account would be solely used for Tyrone’s fund, which would be revolving, or regenerating, to get money out as quickly as possible.

“This is not necessarily a COVID-related emergency fund, this is something that we thought of prior to the crisis,” said McKnight. “We think it’s a great idea and could be a model for the rest of the county and other boroughs that may want to establish a micro loan as well.”

“The thing I like about this program…this is straight forward,” commented Borough Manager Ardean Latchford. “If you take Tyrone, and say put $100,000 into this micro loan program, and we have five businesses that utilize $20,000 — that’s five businesses in Tyrone and that’s remarkable.”

The loan program would provide an opportunity for entrepreneurs looking to open up shop in Tyrone, with ABCD’s help and expertise to properly screen applications, and possibly boost the local economy.

“There is a lot happening in Tyrone, and I would be very [happy] to stimulate that,” said Manager Latchford.

Mayor Bill Latchford said he likes the idea of incentive. “It’s an incentive to show that Tyrone is serious about small business and that we care,” he commented. “It’s a one-time investment, basically.”

“It’s revolving — it’s going to be there forever,” explained Russell. “People are paying the loans back, so it’s not just putting money out on the street that disappears. It’s putting it out there in a way that can help businesses and continue to help businesses in the future.”

Russell talked about the difficulty in bringing Tyrone’s aged building up to code, compared to other locations, saying it’s a “huge process” to put in a storefront, and the costs are substantial in bringing spaces up to code. He said it makes sense to have additional incentives to bring business to town.

Councilman Dave Snyder said he likes the sustainability of the program and asked about running a grant program in parallel with the loan program.

“Small businesses are having difficulties in the sense that they may close given the fact they don’t have funds,” Snyder commented. “That to me is the benefit that a grant program would have in conjunction with a loan program that is more sustainable.” Grants could be for reimbursement of expenses already incurred.

Ultimately, the board agreed to use community enrichment funds from the operation of the local windmills to start a $100,000 micro loan program through ABCD Corp., and a $20,000 grant program for existing and startup businesses in Tyrone. Councilman Charlie Mills presented the only dissenting vote.

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