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Buffalo's main development agency has approved loans totaling $283,640 to seven area businesses and is restructuring a program that helps budding entrepreneurs.

The Buffalo Economic Renaissance Corp. on Wednesday approved a consulting contract for a company that will provide training to aspiring business people who enroll in the agency's Entrepreneurial Assistance/Marketing Program. The company, En Ami Inc. of Buffalo, will be paid $49,000 over the next six months.

EAP Executive Director Archie Amos said the program is being restructured to put moreemphasis on developing business plans and marketing plans. A management component that was previously part of the EAP will no longer be offered, as more attention is placed on group exercises and discussions that prepare entrepreneurs to create business plans.

Amos said the restructuring will also allow the agency to trim EAP-related costs by 49 percent in the coming year.

The only dissenting vote was cast by BERC board member Clifford Bell, who raised concerns that the program duplicates services already being offered by state-run Small Business Development Centers and by the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE).

The largest of the seven loans that were announced Wednesday is a $100,000 loan to M/E Engineering P.C., a consulting firm that that has leased space on Lakefront Boulevard. The financing will help the company buy furniture, fixtures and work stations.

The BERC also approved a $50,000 loan to the owner of the Louie's Texas Red Hots franchise to help acquire a building at 697 Fillmore Avenue. A $20,000 loan has been approved for Duffer's Downtown Inc., a golf shop and golf events management company that will lease space in the Statler Towers.

Low-interest loans were also approved for the following entities: Artisan's Gallery & Gift Inc., Staples (a take-out deli that is planned on Allen Street), Custom Design Vertical Blinds and the Buffalo Hispanic Management Corp., which is involved with a retail and residential development on Virginia Street.

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