Board moves to promote small businesses

First Posted: 4/7/2009

ELKIN In an effort to give local entrepreneurs a fighting chance, the Surry County Board of Commissioners voted Monday night to back a Small Business Enhancement Program that would fund small start-up businesses.
Successful small businesses are essential to our local economy, said County Manager Dennis Thompson. Surry County is a regional trade and services center for both North Carolina and Virginia. Therefore, the county should seek opportunities to help small businesses to get started and to grow, to provide jobs, and to bring new money into our economy, he said.
The county will establish a small business loan pool through the offices of the Surry County Economic Development Partnership. An initial appropriation of $50,000 will be made in fiscal year 2009-10 as the first money in the loan pool. Lending institutions that are members of the partnership will be asked to make matching contributions in whatever amount they can afford. Other EDP members are invited to contribute also.
I am requesting your authorization to introduce a new program into the budget deliberations for your consideration. It is designed to assist and encourage the start-up of new small businesses and the expansion of existing small businesses in Surry County, Thompson stated in a memo to the board.
Thompson said he asked David Lawrence, a faculty attorney at the N.C. School of Government, if local governments are allowed to create such a program.
I have no doubt that a loan program for small businesses is a legitimate public program for a county. Assisting small businesses is an accepted part of the economic development function, and making loans is an accepted way to further a public purpose. Because the county could undertake such a program itself, the statutes permit the county to appropriate money to another organization to undertake the program on the countys behalf, Lawrence said.
The program, as outlined by Thompson, would follow these guidelines:
It would be funded by county money at $50,000 per year for five years, subject to annual review during the countys budget process.
The loan amounts will vary, but should be micro-loans, not to exceed $10,000.
An EDP subcommittee of the lending institution members will develop recommended procedures for consideration and approval by the EDP Board.
The loans will be repaid, with interest, thereby giving a way for the loan pool to grow. Information is not yet available on what the terms of the loan will be or how long a company will have to pay the money back.
The loans will be for business enhancement, as determined by the loan review committee, with the goal of giving the business a greater probability of success.
Thompson informed the board that he would forward its interest along to the EDP staff for additional research.
Chairman Craig Hunter said the boards number one goal in 2006-07 was to set up an angel fund through the Surry County Economic Development Partnership to help small businesses.
The number one obstacle to small business is starting up. If it is still the pleasure of the board, I would like to suggest trying to get some matching funds from our local banks.
Thompson said the chairman of the EDP was interested in pursuing those types of funds.
In other business Monday night the board:
Unanimously approved hiring an environmental contractor for $2,700 for soil testing, site reconnaissance, records review, a data base search and a written report for a track of land at the intersection of Ararat Road and Old U.S. 52. The property has been cleaned up and will be offered to Habitat for Humanity. The property, known as the former Al Crocker property, was previously a dumping ground, according to Surry County Planning Director Kim Bates, and the county bought it out of foreclosure.
Approved an agreement to send local Emergency Services personnel on disaster responses as needed throughout the state or country.
Thompson presented the request to the board.
Hunter asked, How do we maintain our level of service? What is the cost of those guys being out of county? And what is the cost of backfill while they are gone?
Emergency Services Director John Shelton explained that the program comes out of the Emergency Management Act.
We are completely reimbursed from the federal level. The agreement is, if that resource is going to be deployed, any equipment, or time or travel will be reimbursed by the state, Shelton said. He explained that the county is reimbursed by both the federal and state governments in the case of natural disasters or terrorism acts.
Commissioner Miller asked, What kind of position does that put us in locally?
Shelton said that only four local people can be dispatched at one time. He said in the case of Hurricane Katrina, only two people from Surry County responded to that disaster for 14 days.
Its been a strong win-win situation for us. We get all kinds of training and equipment that goes along with being a part of the State Medical Assistant Team, Shelton said.
Approved a request to send a letter of opposition to the N.C. Senate concerning Senate Bill 758.
Hunter explained to the public that the bill would require the county to maintain upkeep on the roads within the county.
The county does not own any roads in Surry County. The state in its wisdom to balance the state budget is proposing that we pay for the upkeep and maintenance on the roads here. And that would cause a .16 cent increase on the property tax rate, Hunter said.
Johnson motioned and Hamlin seconded.
Heard a report from Shelton about a radio console project with the board. Shelton said Emergency Services is installing an 800 megahertz system that will coordinate all of the county agencies together. He said by Friday of this week he should have another proposal from Motorola for around $425,000. He said a large portion of the project is being paid for through 911 surcharge.
Hunter told Shelton that a motion had already been approved to fund the project over a two budget year plan and to go ahead with the project when he gets the bid.
Betty Taylor, assistant county manager for Budget and Finance said the board would have to accept the bid.
Unanimously approved a resolution for an application to the N.C. Department of Water Quality for economic stimulus money for the Interstates Water and Sewer District.
Approved a contract with Hobbs Upchurch and Associates for administering the Community Development Block Grant project for the Tobe Hudson water line.
Heard a request from Jack Gardin, Surry County Water and Sewer Projects Coordinator who said he has been receiving requests from residents who will be able to hook up to the Tobe Hudson water line. The board approved a motion to allow residents who want to sign up early to pay $300 hook up cost, which is $300 than the standard $600 hook up cost.
In addition, Commissioner Harrell:
Honored Elkin High School for having the highest graduation rate in North Carolina.
I know it takes a lot of effort to keep these kids in schools. I am very pleased that the things they are learning in the classroom will take them into the 21st century, Harrell said.
Honored Mary Ann Osment, Celeste Hawks, Candy Hendrix, Mark Byrd, the principal of Elkin High School.
Recognized Dr. Skip Whitman for his dedication and volunteerism to the Elkin School system.
Recognized Jim Shepherd for his dedication to the school system in Elkin.
Recognized Frank Beals and Linda Erlandson for their dedication to the school system.
Contact Mondee Tilley at [email protected] or at 719-1930.

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