As the eighth of 15 children, Mary G. Hales figured she could run a mighty fine day-care center.
And tending to more than 40 children and managing a staff of 12 has been a breeze compared to the financial hurdles Ms. Hales said she has faced since she opened Children 1st Child Care Center at 496 Pearl St. in the Theater District.
The single mother of two founded the center seven months ago and she said getting seed money for the business wasn't the biggest obstacle.
"I'm learning that it also takes money to continue -- to grow your business. All my sweat equity and personal resources won't do it. Then, a miracle happened," she said.
That miracle was a new city lending initiative aimed at helping small, emerging businesses.
The "6 5/3 5 loan program" is a team effort between local banks and two major not-for-profit city development agencies. The formula calls for banks to provide 65 percent of the loan, with the remainder split between the Buffalo Enterprise Development Corp. and the Erie County Industrial Development Agency's Regional Development Corp.
BEDC President Alan H. DeLisle said the city has earmarked $225,000 to help finance 18 of the 6 5/3 5 loans in the coming year. The ECIDA is expected to allocate an identical amount.
When the funds are pooled with resources from area banks, an estimated $1.3 million will be available.
The day-care center recently received a $41,000 loan at about 2
percentage points below the prime interest rate. Ms. Hale is confident the five-year loan will be fuel that will enable her to build her business and make it prosper in one of the fastest-growing industries in the nation.
"The money doesn't solve every problem, but it gives us some security," said Ms. Hale.
She also noted that this was the first commercial loan her business has received.
William J. Castellino, assistant vice president of business banking at M&T, has been working closely with Ms. Hales.
"She is serving an area of Buffalo that is very much in need of day care," said Castellino.
The 6 5/3 5 loans are also backed by the U.S. Small Business Administration. M&T has been involved in similar initiatives with the ECIDA in the past, but this is the first time the city has become a partner in the lending initiative, Castellino said.
The program will be especially helpful to businesses that might be viewed by some lenders as too risky -- ventures that are short on initial equity investment or have limited collateral, Castellino explained.
DeLisle added that a special emphasis is being placed on assisting minority and women-owned ventures.
Mayor Masiello said the city's new lending vehicle is part of a comprehensive blueprint for fostering economic development. "By participating in this exciting loan program, we are developing new businesses, creating new jobs and helping people like Mary G. Hales achieve their dream," Masiello said.
Ms. Hales said growing up with seven younger and seven older siblings in Central New York gave her an abundance of experience dealing with kids. She came to Western New York in 1973 to enroll at the University at Buffalo where she studied health.
These days, she's getting a crash course in business since opening the child care business was her maiden voyage into entrepreneurial waters. The center is open six days a week and is geared toward preparing youngsters for kindergarten.