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Town of Tonawanda revives loan program for small businesses

Many larger businesses in the Town of Tonawanda are taking advantage of Erie County Industrial Development Agency tax breaks, but the town is restarting a program to assist smaller businesses with five or fewer employees, according to Town Supervisor Joseph H. Emminger.

Joseph H. Emminger, Town Tonawanda Supervisor

"We just restarted the program this year," said Emminger, who noted that the Town Board awarded a microenterprise loan of $50,000 on Monday. "I think it has been over 10 years since we offered these loans. We just put it in motion again last year."

The first loan was given to the Paul Wolf Insurance Agency, 2686 Elmwood Ave., which said it plans to use the low-interest loan to buy equipment and to consolidate loans, said Emminger.

James Hartz, the town's director of planning and development, told the board that it has been 13 years since the town last awarded a microenterprise loan.

Hartz said loans are recommended through the loan review committee. He said the loan will allow Wolf to have some working capital and hire new employees.

Councilman John A. Bargnesi Jr. said the board hopes this loan will lead other businesses to inquire.

"These are businesses that may not be able to get loans through traditional methods and we are offering (the loans) to businesses in Ken-Ton and we can help them move up," said Bargnesi.

The small business loan program is financed through Community Development Block Grant Funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.  The microenterprise program awards low-interest loans to small businesses in the town, including Kenmore, which are establishing, stabilizing or expanding a business.

There is a minimum loan amount of $10,000, but no maximum.

Hartz said they are building the loan program in the town so that the town can offer more significant loans. He said there is $250,000 set aside this year for the loan program, but it can be increased based on the success of the program.

"There's not as much available for the smaller companies," said Emminger. "(Small businesses) are the backbone of our country and our community."

He said there's a limited availability of these loans, but the town would like to award two or three a year. Qualified business owners can apply online through the town's Department of Planning and Development.

The Town Board also approved a total of $90,000 for repairs at the two town libraries, Kenilworth and Kenmore. The repairs include new carpets, HVAC work and phone replacement. The funds will come from the town's library capital reserve fund.

Emminger said the town once had five libraries, which were operated 11 years ago by Erie County. The town kept two of the libraries open and sold the Greenhaven library building for about $350,000. Two other library buildings, Brighton and Sheridan-Parkside, are still owned by the town.

"Instead of putting that money into our general fund we put it into a dedicated reserve fund for our library facilities," said Emminger. "It's one of the best decisions we've ever made. We've been able to use that money for matching grants for our libraries and multiply that $350,000 several times."

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