3 banks join county to offer lower rates on business loans

Discounts to be available in 13 older commercial districts being revitalized

December 05, 2003|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,SUN STAFF

In a boost to Baltimore County's redevelopment efforts, three banks have joined the county to provide reduced-interest loans to small businesses in commercial revitalization districts, County Executive James T. Smith Jr. announced yesterday.

M&T Bank, Provident Bank and Susquehanna Bank agreed to offer 1/4 -point discounts to businesses located in or moving to the county's 13 revitalization districts, which are concentrated in the older communities around the Beltway. The program is called "Revitalization Advantage."

When coupled with the county's existing small-business loan program, entrepreneurs could save tens of thousands of dollars on equipment purchases or rehabilitation or development of commercial property, Smith said.

"These programs offer real savings for small businesses and offer real incentives to stay in or relocate in a commercial revitalization district," Smith said.

Smith made the announcement at Baltimore Heart Associates, a medical practice in Randallstown that recently used a county loan program to remodel its building. The community has been designated a revitalization district.

County Economic Development Director David S. Iannucci said the public-private partnership allows the county to leverage the loans it provides, which are limited to $500,000 or 50 percent of a project cost, whichever is less, to provide more money for small businesses.

The county estimates that a business borrowing $1 million over 10 years could save $15,600 in interest by taking advantage of the Revitalization Advantage program. But by taking out a $500,000 loan through the county's existing program and another $500,000 through the new program, it could save nearly $82,000.

That arrangement makes these loans more attractive to banks because the county adds its equity, said Kevin Byrnes, president and chief operating officer of Provident Bank. And for local banks, like his, making investments in older neighborhoods is important for long-term business.

"Our whole success is how well the communities grow and prosper," he said. "We want to get involved in these things because it makes good sense."

Henry Weisenberg, executive director of the Liberty Road Business Association, attended the announcement and said the program will be very helpful.

"Anything that a small business can do to improve itself, to generate customers, is a shot in the right direction," he said.

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