Loan program provides boost

A new loan program at Community Futures Okanagan Similkameen is set to give a $1 million shot-in-the-arm to entrepreneurs wanting to start up or expand a business in the South Okanagan and Similkameen Valley.

A new loan program at Community Futures Okanagan Similkameen is set to give a $1 million shot-in-the-arm to entrepreneurs wanting to start up or expand a business in the South Okanagan and Similkameen Valley.

General manager Mary Ellen Heidt announced that in partnership with the provincial Ministry of Regional Economic and Skills Development CFOS has created the new Community Business Loan Program to help entrepreneurs obtain operating capital or money to purchase equipment or fixed assets.

“The program’s goal is not only to promote investment and business growth in our region, but also to support innovation and technology in South Okanagan and Similkameen businesses,” said Heidt.

In particular, the fund will be available for businesses which are developing or using clean or renewable energy, developing innovative technology or beginning or expanding the export of goods or services.

Heidt said the fund isn’t entirely new money. About $500,000 of it comes from the region’s former Forestry Investment Fund — loan money which wasn’t being applied for by the forestry sector. That money is being matched dollar-for-dollar by the province to form the region’s new Community Business Loan Fund, totalling about $1 million. Loans of up to $300,000 may be approved from the fund.

“The businesses applying for loans can be in forestry, manufacturing, tourism, or any other industry where the loan would help the business maintain or create jobs,” said Heidt.

The businesses will be required to meet regular financial standards such as providing some security, having a viable business plan, showing proof of management experience or having owner equity.

Community Future Okanagan Similkameen also continues to offer other business loan programs aimed at youth, entrepreneurs with disabilities and growth-oriented businesses. In the 2009-10 year, CFOS approved more than $2.1 million in business loans in the region. Since it began in 1984, Community Futures has loaned more than $24.6 million to small businesses in communities throughout the South Okanagan Similkameen.

CFOS serves a large area in the Southern Interior, providing financial help and business training to people in communities including Summerland, Naramata, Penticton, Kaleden, Okanagan Falls, Oliver, Osoyoos, Cawston, Keremeos, Hedley and Princeton.

Businesses wanting more information about the new Community Business Loan Fund or other programs — including business training, market research, or video conference services — can contact Karen Chamberlain, loans analyst, by phone at 250-493-2566 (ext 214) or by email karen@cfokanagan.com.