The Greene County Economic Development Authority (EDA) is considering partnering with the Community Investment Collaborative (CIC) to assist with the workload that comes with offering loans to businesses, including those related to COVID-19.

Stephen Davis, president of the CIC, spoke to the EDA during its regular meeting on May 19.

“For those who are new to the conversation, one of the biggest concerns (about the loans) was that we could have very easily found our small group inundated with requests that we would not be able to deal with in a timely manner,” said Chairman Michael Payne.

The CIC began in 2012 with a goal of helping under-resourced entrepreneurs start and grow small businesses and offers a 16-week entrepreneur workshop, as well as microloans to businesses.

“We’re a nonprofit based in Charlottesville, but that serves (the city of) Charlottesville and Albemarle, Greene, Louisa, Fluvanna and Nelson counties,” Davis said. “We’re also having some more conversations with Orange County recently.”

The workshop helps people determine if the business or business idea is viable and then teaches the basics of running a small business with about 30 entrepreneurs in a cohort, he said.

The CIC has set up and is administering recovery loan funds for the city of Charlottesville and Albemarle and Fluvanna counties.

“But the original idea of CIC was a microloan program,” Davis said. “When the idea of CIC was coming together in 2011, we discovered there’d been three previous microloan funds in the region in the last 30 years, and they’d all not sustained for the big three reasons: they did not have a significant business education component; they didn’t have significant ongoing assistance for the businesses after the loans were made to help them actually put those funds to work and get that support as they took those next steps; and then managing the risk on loans is a challenging piece.”

The CIC has done about $850,000 in loans up until March 2020 and had a lifetime loss rate of 1.6% at that point. Davis said with COVID-19 that might rise a bit if companies go out of business.

Loans are personally guaranteed and if there are assets available for security the CIC will accept that, as well.

“We’ve had, I think, a lot of success in helping businesses grow and start and it’s been a great opportunity to help folks throughout the region,” Davis said.

Funding for the loans comes from the localities, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, private donors and the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation.

EDA member Matt Sweetanos asked Davis how the CIC manages the loans and collections.

“Before March, we had 38 outstanding loans that we serviced monthly, all of our payments we require through ACH, so they give us permission to directly debit the money every month … so we don’t have to collect checks or chase people down for being, you know, 10 days late,” Davis said.

Davis said the CIC provides quarterly reports for outstanding loans for Charlottesville and Albemarle, and permission is granted at closing for the CIC to share information with the EDA. He said it can be sent to the EDA at the frequency members need.

“For all our loan funds that we’ve done with folks to date, we have not charged additional fees to manage the loan fund,” Davis said.

“Mr. Davis, you also in our conversation indicated that you are set up to receive this information securely,” Payne said. “You will take in all the paperwork, you evaluate it based upon your own criteria, and any additional criteria we might set and then basically report out to us on the status of the loan. Effectively you handle everything from A to Z?”

“Absolutely,” Davis said.

James Tsikerdanos said the EDA was concerned how the all-volunteer group would handle a loan program.

“I think this is a great option for us to consider looking at offering,” Tsikerdanos said.

EDA members Matt Sweetanos, Julia Roberts and Whit Ledford all agreed.

“I’ve had some in-depth conversations with some of the clients, and I’ve learned a lot about them and they are highly respected and the work they do is awesome,” Roberts said.

“I very much appreciate the fact that they’re requiring their potential borrowers to go through an educational program,” Ledford said.

Payne noted the EDA had decided not to go forward with a COVID-based loan two weeks prior.

“Does involvement of CIC address that substantially that we might want to reconsider it?” Payne asked.

“I feel that way,” Sweetanos said.

Ledford said he felt the decision about the CIC and how much to contribute to a loan fund should be made at a special meeting and not wait until the July 21 regular meeting.

“I agree,” Tsikerdanos said.

“I think we need to look at this, you know, in totality with all of our lending, micro-lending, and the recovery lending, I think that all needs to be addressed at this one meeting, because I think those are the same funds in my mind,” Roberts said.

The board agreed to hold a special meeting via Zoom at 6:30 p.m. on June 2. Visit https://greenecountyva.gov/government/depts/economic-development-tourism/eda-agendas-minutes for the agenda the Friday prior to the meeting with log-in instructions.

Editor, Greene County Record

Terry Beigie is the Editor of the Greene County Record in Stanardsville. She can be reached at tbeigie@greene-news.com or (434) 985-2315.

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