The program offers entrepreneurs and start-up business owners a way to build credit via small loans so they can apply for larger loans down the road, according to a commission spokesman.
Area Five already funds a loan program for any small business that meets its eligibility guidelines of fewer than 50 employees and less than $1 million gross sales. That program uses state grants to lend up to $15,000 for any business expense.
The agency’s new program for Hispanic entrepreneurs will offer smaller loans with the same eligibility guidelines, except that only Cass County entrepreneurs will be eligible. It’s funded entirely by the state commission.
Six $500 loans are up for grabs, according to Alisa Rickard, community relations manager for Area Five.
“That could even go toward office supplies, things like that. It’s just not your typical business loan,” she said. “It can help the community prosper rather than having this growing population that can’t do anything to contribute.”
Along with the microloans, Area Five will offer a series of business training workshops. The agency has two full-time translators on staff should entrepreneurs need their services during the loan process.
The county’s Hispanic business loan program is similar to a microloan program the state commission launched in Fort Wayne.
There, several entrepreneurs have taken advantage of it, according to commission Director Danny Lopez.
Cass County’s program, on the other hand, drew no eligible applicants when it was launched last year.
“I think part of it is that we just haven’t done a good enough job connecting with Hispanic entrepreneurs in the area,” Lopez said. “And it’s a difficult-to-reach population in Logansport.
“Unlike Fort Wayne, it’s a very young population, a very new population,” he explained.
Cass County doesn’t have its own Spanish-language media, so Area Five is planning to distribute brochures in English and Spanish at businesses to get the word out.
“Since we really didn’t do much with it before, we’re basically starting from scratch” on promoting the program, Rickard said.
The agency has better leads this year, including a list of Hispanic businesses that have shown interest. Lopez also compiled a list of business contacts that don’t need the microloan, but are connections to others who may be interested.
“We knew this was going to be a difficult project for us,” Lopez said. “But at the same time we’re pretty optimistic.”