County Weighing VOLT Applications

SNOW HILL — The second round of VOLT loan funds have been approved by the state and already Worcester County applications are rolling in from local businesses.

Resources are tighter this year than last, however, so instead of aggressively shining exposure to drum up interest in the loan program, the county is taking a slower approach and seeking to prioritize the interest that already exists.

The VOLT loan program owes its name, and source of funding, to the revenue that is being generated by video lottery terminals in Maryland Casinos. A portion of that revenue is made available to small, minority or female owned businesses as low-interest loans. Now that the second round of VOLT has gotten the green light, Worcester businesses should start to see the initial turnover from those loans as early as this month.

“We’re actively working on a number of transactions now so I think by the end of July we’ll probably have some transactions completed,” said Bill Badger, director of Economic Development for the county.

Worcester has once again partnered with Anne Arundel County to serve as VOLT fund managers, with the Anne Arundel Development Corp. acting as the primary loan allocator.

“It’s pretty much the same relationship. They are the official loan manager,” said Badger. “We are in partnership with them so we get first priority outside of Anne Arundel for loan applications.”

The pool of money that the state has given Anne Arundel is smaller this round than last, shrinking from about $3.3 million to $2 million this year. It’s the result of VOLT funding being more spread out across Maryland and different fund managers, Badger explained, and should still leave Worcester with significant resources to provide loans to local businesses.

Last year, by drawing on Anne Arundel and other fund management partners, Badger estimated that about $700,000 was infused into the local business community. That first round saw Worcester putting out a lot of advertising just to make sure that potential loan applicants were aware of the program. That marketing exceeded expectations to the point demand started to push the limits of supply. Demand remains high following the first round of VOLT to enough of a degree that the county doesn’t feel more publicity is needed at this point and a closer eye will be turned to choosing the most qualified applicants.

“We’ve kind of toned down a little bit on the marketing because even though $2 million sounds like a lot of money it’s not,” Badger said. “We can access the other fund managers as well but there was a sense of urgency last year just to make sure that we could generate some interest to keep the partnership going. This year it’s a more trying to prioritize a little bit with what’s the most impact for us and jobs and business investment.”