New business assistance funding builds on investment already in place

April 13, 2011

Today the Metropolitan Council announced an expansion of assistance to businesses along the Central Corridor LRT route. The increase of $3.3 million brings the total commitment to $11.1 million.

The most significant increase is funding for business loans. The forgivable loan fund will grow to $4 million — a significant portion of the total aid — with the addition of $2.5 million in new money and $1 million originally earmarked for repayable loans. Additional funds totaling $310,000 will be made available for business and marketing support, plus another $525,000 to improve access and make the streets more safe and appealing.

Funders Collaborative director Jonathan Sage-Martinson said, “It’s significant that the investments highlighted today match the priorities laid out by the Business Resources Collaborative (BRC), a partnership of business coalitions, nonprofit community developers and local governments formed to address business and economic development in the Central Corridor. Their strategic plan called for a mix of financial supports, technical assistance, marketing support and contractor incentives based on their study of other successful construction mitigation and business development programs.”

All of these elements are part of the comprehensive $11.1 million package announced today.

As one of the early investors in the Corridor, the Funders Collaborative encouraged the formation of groups like the BRC and helped highlight the importance of a strong local economy and the contributions small businesses make to neighborhood vitality. Our funding provided resources to help businesses organize, plan and strengthen their capabilities so they are in a position to thrive once light rail arrives.

It’s important to recognize that the new dollars — primarily from the Met Council and the Cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis — supplement $7.8 million of investments already in place.

In 2010 alone, the Funders Collaborative invested more than $1 million in initiatives that support small business preparedness and create access to job opportunities in the corridor. The Living Cities Integration Initiative provides $700,000 for small business growth and building ownership. And Collaborative Members, the McKnight Foundation, The St. Paul Foundation and the F.R. Bigelow Foundation plus the Citis of St. Paul and Minneapolis and Metropolitan Council also contributed to the original investment.

The new commitments reinforce the importance we all place on helping businesses survive the construction phase. Meanwhile, the Funders Collaborative maintains its focus on ensuring businesses take the right steps and have the resources to thrive once the line is operating.