Jobs, jobs, jobs. The subject has been the focus of both national and state discussions for some time. Yet, many are unaware of the work Community Action Agencies are engaging in to create them.
Organizations like ADVOCAP, Western Dairyland and CAP Services have supported small business start-ups and expansions, fueling local economies for a number of years. These, and other Wisconsin community action agencies (CAA’s), offer a variety of technical assistance services that include the development of business plans, market/feasibility studies and preparation of financials and forecasting. From 2006 through September 2012, the network assisted in the creation of 383 new businesses and 635 jobs. Since 1989, the numbers are even higher: 1,971 new businesses and 5,669 jobs!
But without access to financing, some of these business starts or expansions would not be feasible. Several CAA’s offer revolving loan funds for business financing when clients face difficulties in obtaining the same in the marketplace. Since 2006, the CAA network leveraged loans and grants to small businesses totaling $6.6 million and accessed $3.1 million in other business development support.
CAP’s lending arm, Community Assets for People, LLC, is one of 21 US-Treasury certified Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI’s) in Wisconsin. CDFI’s bring capital and credit to under-served markets, and as such, do much of their work with low-income people or in low-income and rural communities. They are effective and so much so, that Starbuck’s created its “Jobs for America” program that invests in CDFI’s for lending and the resulting creation of jobs.
CAP’s total loan portfolio of $15 million currently includes over 1,000 housing loans, 64 business loans and 54 auto purchase loans. The business loan fund of approximately $5 million is capitalized through a combination of grants and investments from the faith-based, public and private sectors. Last year, it deployed over $1.8 million in loans to 23 businesses. Separate one very large deal of over $1.4 million, the average loan size was $63,250. But the range of loan sizes varies and may as small as $1,500 or as large as $500,000 or more. Flexible financing terms that include lower interest rates, limited-term interest-only payments, or collateral considerations make the difference for many clients.
Other business services available at CAP Services include below-market cost space in its business incubators and a Lease/Purchase program. The Lease/Purchase program involves CAP purchasing or building a facility designed to a business’ specifications. CAP then leases it to the business with an option to purchase. It also offers a web-based technical assistance product. Visit www.vbi.biz to see more. Other CAA’s offer other business products, too. See the “Member Agencies” link for more information.
Over the past 5 years, CAP Services assisted 53 business starts and the creation of 118 jobs. The types of businesses in the portfolio are as diverse as the tools used to assist them. They have included a legal firm, hardware store, local mercantile, microbreweries, food processing plants/food products, green energy producers, machining shops, salons, coffee houses, photographers, the purchase of calves for a small farm operation and the production and sale of innovative products to make our lives better. Small business represents this nation’s economic engine. And when they are local, they drive their profits right back in the communities in which they are located.
So while the discussions continue, the community action network is doing its part to get the job done. Please feel free to contact me with your comments or questions.
Mary Patoka, President and CEO
CAP Services, Inc.