If you run a business and are looking for a loan of less than $350,000, things will soon get a little easier.
Starting in July, the Small Business Administration will begin streamlining its loan approval process, making it easier for businesses to get loans under $350,000. And if you're in the market for a loan of less than $150,000, the agency will cover the fees.
"This is just a continuation of recent practices by the SBA," says Eric Ness, district director for the SBA in Wisconsin.
The agency is also doing more to promote its smaller loans. The creation of the total score model, which combines an entrepreneur's personal credit score with the score of his or her business, is available only for loans under $350,000.
"All you need to do is plug in the person's name, address and Social Security number and it will tell the banker right away if you're approved," Ness says. "We've been able to do this type of loan for a while, but now more paperwork is being reduced. And we are also paying the fees on any loan less than $150,000. That's a great opportunity."
While the SBA doesn't loan the money itself -- it works with local lenders -- it will guarantee up to 85 percent of loans worth $150,000 and up to 75 percent of loans worth than $150,000. In 2013, the SBA did 229 loans for less than $350,000 in Wisconsin. Through the end of May, it had already approved 258.
"The demand is definitely there and we're getting out the word," Ness says. "We call it 'score and go.' The banker can run the credit score and know right away if the business qualifies. It's a great tool for businesses just getting started."
Ness says the SBA realized that most of its loans were for huge amounts of money and that there was an underserved smaller market.
"Don't get me wrong, we love the big loans, but smaller ones, for example, to buy a piece of equipment are just as important," he says. "Yes, the SBA is here for those $2 million loans, but we also want to get businesses started."
The SBA talked with lenders about ways to improve the process for small loans and incorporated some of their suggestions, Ness says.
Lenders have been good about getting out the word about the quicker approval process, but he's also met with local SCORE chapters and business groups to help spread the word.
"We are definitely seeing a lot of growth in the loan requests for under $150,000 and picking up the fees has made it more popular," Ness says. "Getting access to capital is a big deal for businesses and these new changes will hopefully make it a bit easier."
Community hospitals honored
Becker's Hospital Review included 13 Wisconsin hospitals in its 2014 list of "100 Great Community Hospitals."
State hospitals on the list include: Aspirus Medford Hospital & Clinics, Aurora Sheboygan Memorial Medical Center, Black River Memorial Hospital, Calumet Medical Center in Chilton, Mayo Clinic Health System - Eau Claire, Grant Regional Health Center in Lancaster, Hudson Hospital and Clinics, Ministry Saint Clare's Hospital, River Falls Area Hospital, St. Joseph's Hospital - Hospital Sisters Health System in Clear Lake, Tomah Memorial Hospital, Upland Hills Health in Dodgeville and Waukesha Memorial Hospital.
A community hospital is defined as having less than 550 beds. Rankings and awards from medical associations were used to pull the list together.
Fond du Lac's Retlaw Theatre property is finding new life after nearly two decades of sitting unused.
The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. recently awarded the city a $400,000 grant to help redevelop the site. Plans for the $2.3 million project include transforming the nearly 90- year-old theater and three adjacent buildings into a mixed-use development featuring retail and office space along with 10 market-rate apartments.
-- Matzek, a freelance writer and editor, is the owner of 1Bizzy Writer. She has worked in the past as a news editor at Insight Publications and as business editor at the Appleton Post-Crescent.