ST. GEORGE — In the wake of difficult times, Washington County municipalities have banded together to help the lifeblood of its local economy: its small businesses.
The newly created Greater Together Small Business Resilience Fund – a public-private partnership between county and city officials and private industry – is accepting applications to award nearly $1 million in loans to small businesses in need.
“The ability to be nimble and the speed with which we can disperse these funds is critical,” said Don Willie, president and CEO of the St. George Area Chamber of Commerce in a press release. “The vast majority of businesses in our area are considered small with 50 or fewer employees. The infusion of capital for them comes at a time when they need it most.”
Washington County has pledged $500,000 to the Resilience Fund. The city of St. George will add $250,000. Washington City and Santa Clara will contribute as well.
Locally, St. George’s pledge will be paid through sales tax revenues that have been saved during the past several years. City officials believe this is the best way to reinvest into what has been given.
Private sector contributions currently include Walker Edison LLC $25,000, Zions Bank $10,000 and State Bank of Southern Utah $5,000.
Taking the point in St. George is Shirlayne Quayle, director of economic development and housing.
“This is a fund that will provide zero-interest loans to our small businesses in Washington County,” Quayle said. “This will enable them to bride the gap between now and when federal and state funds become available.”
A full list of loan criteria and application instructions can be found at www.greatertogetherfund.org. Applications will be received on a rolling basis with reviews beginning Monday.
“This loan program is a reflection of the teamwork that pulsates throughout Southern Utah,” said Washington County Commissioner Victor Iverson in a release. “We all share in the urgency of assisting the small businesses that desperately need a stop-gap funding source during this challenging time.”
According to Quayle, payments on the loans will be deferred until 90 days after the municipality the business is located in cancels its declaration of emergency or the notice expires. St. George issued its declaration Thursday and Washington County issued its declaration on March 20.
“We don’t know when the expiration will occur right now, but the term for payback will be up to five years with the maximum amount up to $20,000,” Quayle said. “We are asking companies what they need for payroll, for inventory, utilities, and any new tools that will help them pivot into a new business model or approach to stay open and maintain jobs during this time.”
Private residents and businesses may contribute to this fund through the St. George Area Chamber of Commerce or through Zions Bank.
The funds will be administered by the St. George Area Chamber of Commerce with contributors participating in the review and award process.
“This is about us being agile,” Quayle said. “We need to focus on our community and bringing the resources we have both in the public and private sectors together to help our small businesses which are the cornerstone of our economy.”
St. George Mayor Jon Pike couldn’t agree more.
“We expect this to make a significant impact on our small businesses, the lifeblood of our economy,” Pike said. “We are all in this together and we will get through this because of our sense of optimism and dedication to preparedness that is so unique to Southern Utah.”
For the average citizen, Pike said, he is excited about this fund. According to the mayor, nearly 90% of St. George businesses fall into the category of employing 50 or fewer workers.
“This is a huge opportunity to help small business owners out in a very difficult time,” he said. “This is designed to be a bridge to help keep smaller businesses open until we come through this and even qualify for federal funding.”
Pike admits it will not solve all the problems but it is a local step in the right direction.
The idea for a Greater Together Small Business Resilience Fund began March 18 to formulate what would a local small business bailout look like.
“It is about coming together as a community,” Quayle said. “We need to help our businesses where they need it most. We are going to learn from this process how to do something and to do it quickly.”
Quayle is “very” optimistic about the future and is honored to be part of the process.
“It’s such a stressful situation and that everyone is trying to navigate through, but to work on something that is so positive has been rewarding,” Quayle said. “It is really cool seeing everyone coming together to help everyone in our community.”
To qualify for a Greater Together Small Business Resilience Fund loan, businesses must satisfy several requirements, including:
- Hold a current business license in a municipality within Washington County
- Have 50 or fewer full-time equivalent employees
- Be a for-profit or non-profit business in good standing with the Utah Division of Corporations
- Be headquartered in Southwest Utah
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