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Central Loan Fund Launches to Support Qualifying Local Corridor Businesses

Community rallied to create, bankroll unprecedented financial assistance program

April 21, 2017

ALBUQUERQUE – The Albuquerque community, in partnership with the City of Albuquerque, is thrilled to announce today the official launch of an unprecedented tailored financial assistance program for qualifying small, local businesses along Central Avenue.

Called the Central Loan Fund, it holds about $700,000 in donations from the McCune Foundation and private contributors, and it is still growing. Low-interest loans (3 percent) of up to $15,000 per business will be extended to those who qualify. One year after completion of the ART project, borrowers from the fund will have an opportunity to have the balance of their loan repaid by the fund if certain conditions are met, such as remaining in business on Central.

Due to the New Mexico Constitution’s anti-donation clause, the City cannot give money directly to businesses, nor can the City operate its own loan program. This is why the City has partnered with WESST to administer the loans.

“In our eagerness to get the Central Loan Fund rolled out, launch dates and loan specifics were prematurely announced before everything could be finalized. But as a result of the additional time invested, we are confident of the program’s workability for our businesses, and we are proud of the community collaboration and incredibly fast implementation of this program,” said Gary Oppedahl, director of the City’s Economic Development Department.

This creative lending investment has been designed in response to emerging needs of Central’s most vulnerable businesses that can show a disproportionate impact as a result of Albuquerque Rapid Transit development. The program has been uniquely designed with input from business leaders, lending institutions, local small business resources, a legal team, the Small Business Resource Collaborative, City officials, and many others. The Small Business Resource Collaborative (SBRC) consultants have visited more than 400 potentially loan eligible businesses to establish relationships and offer marketing and financial help since February 2016. Such support remains available to businesses that do not qualify for loans. Of 188 businesses that have received follow-up visits to begin strategies for success, 121 have been actively engaged with the collaborative.  

"We have been working for a little over a year with the SBRC and are excited to start the loan application process,” said Mike Baker, who co-owns Southwest Ceramic Lighting on Central with his wife, Lydia. “This is an incredible opportunity for Central Avenue businesses, not just because of the funding but also because of the ongoing assistance that is provided by SBRC consultants to any business that needs it, whether they qualify for a loan or not. I can't imagine turning down free help, especially in a time of transition.”

The SBRC is taking loan applications, identifying eligible businesses and recommending loan amounts. The collaborative will also provide consistent one-on-one support to each qualified business owner for the duration of the ART project. Businesses that want to apply for a loan or inquire about eligibility should contact the SBRC at 505.600.1751.

"We have been working with our clients now for over one year, and we know first-hand how needed these funds are to help our businesses on Central stay open, stay local and stay on 66," said SBRC project manager Vanessa Roanhorse.

Eligibility requirements include but are not limited to: annual revenues of less than $2 million; reliance on walk-in traffic; a working relationship (either already established or formed in coming months) with the SBRC; an ability to demonstrate a decline in revenue over a two-month period during construction; proof that actions have been taken to reduce expenses; good financial standing before Albuquerque Rapid Transit construction; and more.

Loans may only be used for basic expenses, payroll, inventory, rent/mortgage, utilities, taxes, marketing and insurance.

The Central Loan Fund is only the latest in a series of initiatives that began well before ART construction to help small businesses along Central Avenue to not only survive, but also to thrive, during and after the development. These services were selected after significant research on best practices in other communities on the types of assistance that were most valuable to businesses during similar major public works projects.

The City of Albuquerque, since FY 2016, has supported small businesses along Central with: 

  • Marketing and customer development/communications: websites, brochures, logos, social media strategies, and the mobile app/website for all businesses along Route 66;
  • Tailored business and financial assistance:  business planning, inventory control, bookkeeping, financial practices, referrals to financial partners;
  • Events/activities to bring customers, businesses, contractors together along Route 66.