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Mini-loan, grant programs launched

Revolving fund to help Tyrone businesses

TYRONE — Borough Council has created a revolving mini-loan fund along with a mini-grant fund to help businesses in Tyrone get started or keep going.

It will use a year’s worth of the borough’s annual “community enrichment” payment received for 15 wind turbine sites on watershed ground it owns in Tyrone Township. Council designated $100,000 for the loan fund and $20,000 for the grant fund.

Councilman Dave Snyder suggested the effort so businesses that don’t meet the minimum three-employee requirement common for federal and state financial help can access the money — especially businesses that employ subcontractors as an alternative to formal employment.

That requirement creates a “blind spot,” in those programs, said Snyder, who owns a cleaning business that employs subcontractors who have their own “entities” and liability coverage, he said.

He applied for the Paycheck Protection Program for himself but couldn’t use it to pay those workers — although they could apply for PPP themselves and they are also eligible for the new Pandemic Assistance Unemployment compensation, he said.

Some businesses are having trouble because of the COVID-19 situation and could close, Snyder said.

Despite COVID-19, there’s also energy for growth in the borough, officials indicated.

“There’s a lot happening in Tyrone now,” said Borough Manager Ardean Latchford. “We want to do all we can to stimulate it.”

The loan fund would be “revolving,” with money paid back over three to five years, making that money available to be reloaned, said local businessman John Russell.

The programs could help in cases where there are significant renovation needs, Russell said.

Buildings in downtown Tyrone tend to be harder to bring up to code than buildings in other places, he said.

The program could also help in cases where there’s a need that can’t be filled by a bank, Russell said.

The program could be used for startup businesses or those already in existence, officials said.

“Keeping a business is just as important,” said Mayor Bill Latchford.

Altoona Blair County Development Corp. will manage the program, with a borough group vetting applicants.

The program will be similar to a countywide micro-loan program that ABCD revived in December, using money that had been paid back as part of a revolving loan program started in 1997 with an $85,000 grant from the state.

That countywide program has the three-employee requirement, Snyder said.

The new Tyrone programs could become a model for other boroughs, said ABCD CEO Steve McKnight.

ABCD will report to the borough on who receives the loans and how successful they are in using the money, he said.

“We can be a steward of the dollars,” McKnight said.

For its loan programs, ABCD requires personal guarantees, so borrowers “get the feeling they’re on the hook,” McKnight said.

Making good on a small loan can sometimes help a business obtain a bigger loan, the mayor suggested.

“Absolutely,” McKnight said.

The fund should grow because of interest payments “as long as you make good deals,” McKnight said.

He estimated there could be a 5-1 ratio of successful vs. defaulted loans.

“That is the risk,” he said. “You do your best.’

Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.

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