OCEAN CITY — The first loan to come out of Worcester County’s new Small Business Loan program was awarded this week to the Kite Loft at 67th Street. The loan coincided with the official grand opening of the new 67th Street Town Center.
The Kite Loft owners Jay and Mary Lynn Knerr were awarded a $64,000 small business loan through the county’s new program, which is funded entirely by revenue drawn from Maryland Casino proceeds. With 1.5 percent of the money from all casino proceeds being made available to small, minority and female owned businesses, County Economic Development Director Bill Badger explained that this first loan is just the beginning.
“This morning we actually settled two [more] transactions. Our target was to try to place about $400,000 in our market,” said Badger. “And with the two transactions that we’ve just completed, that’s about $160,000.”
County Commissioner Louise Gulyas, the representative for Ocean City, said that she was glad to see resort businesses like the Kite Loft jumping at the chance to expand or improve their store through loans funded by casino proceeds.
“I think that it’s wonderful for the entrepreneurs to have a source for small business,” she said. “And I really am a promoter of small businesses.”
With the Kite Loft and the two unnamed businesses already onboard, Badger is optimistic about Worcester meeting its goal of supplying $400,000 in loans to small businesses by the end of the year. While any business with less than 500 employees can apply for a loan, Badger underlined that those in close proximity to the Ocean Downs Casino on Route 589 are given a special consideration for access to the funds.
“I think that we’re off to a really good start. The reality is, that with the whole pot of money, 50 percent of it is targeted towards businesses within 10 miles of a casino,” he said. “If we generate more demand here, we can get all of that money in our market. What I’m trying to do is get the word out to our companies that are looking to grow and expand. It’s all about creating jobs.”
Worcester County is serving as a fund manager for the Small Business Loan program and partnered with Anne Arundel County in their initial application to the state. After it was revealed that Worcester would be a fund manager for the program, Badger confirmed that there was a “flurry of activity” with his office being contacted by between 25 and 30 businesses interested in the program, meaning that the three that have already been awarded could be just the tip of the iceberg. And though early interest was promising, Badger said that there are a lot more qualified businesses in the county that could be applying for the loans.
“I’m excited, but it’s something that we have to do every day; to remind the community that it’s here and that it’s an opportunity for them to get some financing for business expansion,” he said.
The $64,000 awarded to the Kite Loft will likely be in-line with what a small business might receive, though Badger said that under special circumstances a loan of up to $1 million could be made. Businesses outside of that 10-mile radius around Ocean Downs shouldn’t be disheartened either, he added, as their applications will still be given consideration.
Between the loans and the grand opening of the 67th Street Town Center, it appeared to be a good day for entrepreneurs in Worcester County.
The new Town Center includes a Ron Jon Surf Shop, Alexis Jade Boutique, Atlantic Gold, Kite Loft, Dolle’s Candyland, Longboard Café, Summer House Trading Co., Olde English Fish, Chips and Chicken, Sweet Frog Frozen Yogurt, and the Market.
Center owners Peck and Patti Miller thanked all of the businesses for making the grand opening a reality and signing up before the complex was even built.
“We really, really thank the business owners that have taken a chance with the Town Center, not having a building to look at but believing that it was going to work,” said Patti Miller.