By Austin Wheelock firstname.lastname@example.org
From 2010 to 2022, the Federal Reserve implemented policies that facilitated record low interest rates that decreased the cost of borrowing for over a decade, on everything from real estate mortgages to vehicle loans to commercial lines of credit, making low-cost funding accessible to individuals and businesses alike.
As those policies have shifted more recently to combat inflation, interest rates have increased steadily over the past 18 months. This has made it more expensive to borrow and affordable lending programs are harder to find and secure with large banks.
In times like this, companies should consider leveraging alternative lenders and lending sources along with their traditional banks to make business startups and expansions feasible and affordable.
Here in Oswego County, Operation Oswego County and the County of Oswego Industrial Development Agency offer a variety of options to businesses looking for financial assistance for a project.
Operation Oswego County works collaboratively with the Greater Syracuse Business Development Corp., a Small Business Administration certified development company. They are authorized to finance projects using the SBA 504 loan program which is designed to promote economic development growth and job creation in small businesses. The program can make the overall financing structure for a new business or project more attractive and affordable.
The SBA 504 program offers accessible, fixed-rate, long-term financing for land, buildings and equipment. Businesses eligible for SBA 504 loans are independently-owned, for-profit businesses that are ready to expand and create jobs. In addition to the affordable fixed rates, one of the most attractive benefits of the SBA 504 program is that eligible businesses can borrow up to 90% of project’s costs, with the participating bank funding 50%, the SBA 40%, and the borrower contributing 10%. It is important to note that, to be eligible, businesses must occupy at least 51% of the space financed by the program. The program is therefore not meant for housing or real estate developers.
The program is available to most other types of businesses from manufacturing to health care to tourism.
Local businesses who have utilized the SBA 504 loan program include Riverview Pediatrics in Fulton, Holiday Inn Express in Oswego, Marmon Enterprises USA in Williamstown and Great Bear Child Care in Schroeppel.
The IDA and OOC administer several Economic Development Fund loan programs that were designed to assist large and small businesses create new jobs and make capital investments. Like the SBA 504 program, if the applicant needs help in developing a business plan to support the project, they will be referred to and assisted by the Onondaga Small Business Development Center at Onondaga Community College.
EDF financing may be used to purchase machinery and equipment, inventory or to provide working capital. In some instances, proceeds may be used for building or site acquisition, construction or renovations. Loans can be short- or long-term, depending on the use of funds. Interest rates for EDF financing are based on the credit worthiness of the project. Eligible businesses can receive rate discounts for significant job creation, significant capital investment, utilizing local construction labor, minority, woman’ or veteran’ owned business, etc. To be eligible, projects must demonstrate a need for financing. EDF financing is designated to serve as gap financing, used in conjunction with other funding from non-IDA sources, such as banks and other economic development lenders.
Oswego County businesses that have benefited from EDF funding include Kathy’s Cakes & Specialty Treats in Volney, Upward Graphics in Fulton, Eir Healing & Wellness in Sandy Creek, Rooftop Lounge in Oswego and United Wire Technologies in Constantia.
Another loan program available through the IDA is the USDA Intermediary Relending Program. This is a unique program that was capitalized by the agency borrowing funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and relending these funds to eligible businesses. The IRP program offers short-term, fixed rate loans. IRP loan uses are very flexible and may be used to purchase machinery and equipment, inventory, or to cover soft costs, start-up costs and working capital needs. The program can be used to fund up to 50% of a project’s cost with a maximum IRP loan size of $100,000.
Oswego County businesses that have used the IRP program include B&T Sports Shop in Fulton, Bella Fattoria in Hannibal, Brown Dog Wood Products in Palermo and Lindsey Aggregates in Scriba.
The County of Oswego IDA also has the ability to provide financial assistance to qualified business applicants through the issuance of tax-exempt or taxable industrial revenue bonds or by participation in straight lease transactions for purposes of providing real property tax abatements as well as sales and use tax, and mortgage recording tax exemptions. These programs are intended to induce large capital investment and job creation or retention projects that meet strict eligibility requirements. The property tax abatements are typically 20 years for manufacturing projects and 10 years for non-manufacturing projects. The exemptions available for sales and use tax are for materials used to construct and equip a facility.
Companies that have utilized the agency’s straight lease transaction incentives to grow and expand their businesses or to establish a business in Oswego County include Novelis in Scriba, Huhtamaki in Fulton, Highland Animal Hospital in Central Square, Felix Schoeller North America in Richland, Tailwater Lodge in Albion and 43 North Marina in West Monroe.
OOC also offers technical assistance to businesses seeking financing and grants from local, state and federal sources.
OOC can help businesses and entrepreneurs navigate which programs make the most sense for the type of business and use of the funds. One such program is the NYS Consolidated Funding Application through the CNY Regional Economic Development Council. This single application provides applicants access to multiple state funding sources that incentivize everything from job creation to energy efficiency to historic preservation.
These programs help to provide the means for Oswego County businesses, big and small, to secure the financial assistance they need to expand and grow. The programs can also be used to help a firm remain competitive, thus helping to retain and maintain jobs in the county. Providing these programs is important as they help increase the county’s tax base, diversify the county’s economic base and improve the quality of life in Oswego County.
If you have a project that could benefit from one of the above financing initiatives, contact Operation Oswego County at 315-343-1545 or email email@example.com to be put in touch with a business development adviser.
Austin M. Wheelock, Certified economic developer (CEcD), is the executive director of Operation Oswego County, Inc. For more information, call 315-343-1545 or visit www.oswegocounty.org.