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Friday, March 6, 2015

MaryBeth Matzek: New SBA program connects lenders, businesses online


By MaryBeth Matzek
Business funding options could just be a few clicks away from entrepreneurs thanks to a new online lending tool launched by the Small Business Administration.

The SBA’s Leveraging Information and Networks to Access Capital or LINC tool asks potential borrowers to fill out an online form filled with 20 questions that lenders want answered, including basic business information, how much is requested, wand hat the funds will be used for. The SBA then sends that information to participating borrowers, who will then follow up with the business owners.

“People are on their computers all the time and it made sense to create a place online where business owners can easily access information about prospective lenders,” says Mary Trimmier, lead economic development specialist for SBA’s Wisconsin District Office. “The SBA looked at this and talked with lenders and it seemed to be a good fit.”

The program was launched in mid-February. Nationwide, there are 124 lenders, including five in Wisconsin. So far, Trimmier says all of the Wisconsin lenders have received leads on prospective customers.

“Once the lenders receive the information, they contact the businesses to get more information and then move forward if it looks like there would be a good fit to make a loan,” she says. “The program is still new and some things are being tweaked, but it’s a good start.”

Prospective borrowers can access the online application from the national SBA website or SBA’s Wisconsin page.

The SBA routes the inquiries to lenders who service a particular area so business owners can fill the form out at either site. Right now, LINC is only for borrowers looking to use either a microlender (a loan for less than $50,000) or smaller loans through SBA’s Community Advantage Program.

“This program is especially helpful if geographically a business isn’t near a lender in the microlending program, for example,” Trimmier says. “It’s just another way to bring business owners and lenders together.”

One step forward

The Appleton City Council agreed Wednesday night to spend $2 million to buy a parcel of property from Outagamie County for a planned $27.5 million expo center, but only if certain contingencies are met. Before the deal can be finalized, a management deal to run the center must be signed by the owners of the Radisson Paper Valley Hotel, which will be adjacent to the new center; bond financing is secured; and nine communities in the area must agree to a room tax to pay back the financing bonds.

Expo center supporters say the new facility is needed to bring additional groups to Appleton and that it will generate $6.5 million in economic revenue annually.

If built, the city, under the guise of the Appleton Development Authority, will own the center, but the Radisson will manage it.

-- 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.

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