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Bianchi Proposes Small Business Opportunity Fund
Staff Reports, iBerkshires
03:55PM / Friday, February 24, 2012
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Mayor Daniel Bianchi will ask the City Council to create a Small Business Fund.

Bianchi frequently talked of the need for a fund to help small businesses over the last two mayoral campaigns, pledging to use GE funds to provide more opportunities for local ventures struggling because of the recent economic downturn.

The fund would provide $500,000 a year in grants and loans to eligible businesses. A statement from Bianchi's office said the fund is designed to jump-start economic development among existing businesses that have potential for expansion and job creation.

"Small businesses are the backbone of Pittsfield's economy," the mayor said in the statement, referring to the approximately 1,400 city businesses with fewer than 50 employees. "In this difficult lending economy, many lack the resources to obtain financing from traditional institutions, preventing them from taking strategic steps toward growth and increasing their work force."

The funding is targeted to address the greatest areas of need identified by the city's Department of Community Development and the Pittsfield Economic Revitalization Corp. Funding for the program will come from the Pittsfield Economic Development Fund, formerly known at the GE Economic Development Fund.

"Funding for technical assistance, working capital and capital investments are three critical areas for small business owners to succeed," said Bianchi, formerly the city's director of Administration and Finance. He said commercial lending isn't sufficient, meaning small businesses have difficulty ramping up for large customers, can't afford consultants on improvements or make expansions.  "The Small Business Fund is designed to help owners meet these critical needs."

Applications would go through the mayor's office to PERC for review and recommendations. The DCD will aid business owners in applying and administer the program but the mayor would have the final word.
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