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Lending program increases

The city's lending to minority women increased significantly this year with the banking arm of City Hall having already closed on eight loans, Ralph Aversa, director of the NFC Development Corp., said Monday.

As of Sept. 1, NFC had approved and funded a total of $70,000 to such businesses across the city, including a printing service, a salon and a day care center, Aversa told the NFC board of directors Monday.

Last year, the city gave out two Minority Business Enterprise or Women Minority Business Enterprise grants, which are federally funded through community development block grants.

Aversa said he began marketing the program extensively last year through business associations and in the community.

Aversa is a former city councilman who has been the NFC director since the beginning of 2004.

He said he made a major change in his department this year by turning the minority grant program into a loan/grant program. That means each loan/grant -- most between $5,000 and $10,000 -- is set up at 3 percent interest; a credit check is made on all applicants; and they must sign a promisory note, he said.

Aversa said if the business owner has met hiring goals after five years, no interest or principal is due. He said the system will help the city continue to receive the federal funding and keep business owners accountable.

Also at the meeting, the board of directors unanimously approved the corporation's 2006 budget as well as the appointment of Frank Roma, formerly of the New York Power Authority, to fill a vacancy on the board.

About $15,000 less than last year's budget, NFC's $214,440 spending plan for next year includes a $2,000 raise for its director and $1,000 each for the other two in the department. The funds for the NFC budget come from repayment and interest on loans.

Aversa said 100 percent of the corporation's loans are up to date on payment, and he is hoping for $250,000 in addition to the budget in recapitalization from the Community Development Department.

Also, Mayor Vince Anello has said he would like to commit more than $1 million of revenue from the Seneca Niagara Casino over the next two years to the department so it can increase its citywide business loan program.

e-mail: gnorheim@buffnews.com

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