Clay St. business initiative announced County to provide advice, loans to start small firms

January 30, 1996|By Ellen Gamerman | Ellen Gamerman,SUN STAFF

The application for a new business development program starts with a simple request: "Describe Business Idea."

Anne Arundel County Executive John G. Gary, who unveiled a small-business initiative yesterday, hopes the answer will steer the Clay Street neighborhood in Annapolis toward a better economic future. The county has allotted $100,000 for loans and started a business advice program for the Clay Street area.

"It takes initiative to start a business, but it also takes help," Mr. Gary said at a news conference at Asbury United Methodist Church. "This is a serious initiative from the government. This is not just lip service."

The neighborhood was transformed in the 1970s, when businesses disappeared and blocks were destroyed in the name of urban renewal. Now there are only a few businesses, and the community's 350 homes are troubled by crime and unemployment.

Yesterday, county officials began distributing applications for the business development program, which has been in the works for seven months. The program will spread if successful.

The Anne Arundel Economic Development Corp. will distribute loans for as much as $25,000. A review board assembled by the county will rule on which entrepreneurs merit the loans.

The county has hired Ralph Blakeney, a local small-business adviser, to run business classes and oversee loan applications from an office in the neighborhood at 80 West St. The county will pay Mr. Blakeney $30,000 a year.

"This program is for would-be business people who have little or no experience with the fundamentals of small business," said Mr. Blakeney, who will continue to run his consulting firm, Peak Performance and technologies, in Annapolis.

The city's Clay Street Revitalization Project will help find applicants. Bertina Nick, a project member, said the community needs business help.

"With people losing jobs, and home-based businesses starting up, the city has not been kind to these businesses," she said. "You need to encourage these kinds of home-based businesses. It was a real team effort, and I think that's what this program does."

In a related matter, Mr. Gary vowed yesterday to seek a $150,000 federal crime-fighting grant for the neighborhood.

Also, Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins said the city will keep its commitment to the neighborhood. By 1997, the city will have invested $2 million over seven years.

"I will still be the mayor, and I'll see that the money gets there," he said.

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