Counseling, loan funds to support Western Massachusetts businesses

  • WAITE

  • SHAPIRO

Staff Writer
Published: 7/1/2021 6:12:08 PM

GREENFIELD — The state recently announced additional financial support to small businesses in Western Massachusetts, including those in Franklin County.

The Greenfield-based Franklin County Community Development Corporation (CDC) was awarded $1.25 million of loan capital and grants for businesses in Western Massachusetts, according to a Franklin County CDC press release. CDC Executive Director John Waite said that about 1 million of those funds, awarded by the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation, will be loans, and about $200,000 will be for grants for small businesses.

“We’ve been lending to small businesses for almost 40 years,” Waite said. “This will allow us to do more flexible lending to people who previously did not have access to credit.”

Additionally, in partnership with Springfield Neighborhood Housing Services and the North Adams Chamber of Commerce, Franklin County CDC received $160,000 for hiring staff to work directly with entrepreneurs and business owners to help them overcome challenges they’ve faced due to COVID-19.

“(Franklin County CDC) has a loan program, and this helps us provide more loan funds to make more loans available to small businesses, as well as some small grants, to help them stabilize their resiliency after COVID,” explained Amy Shapiro, business development director with Franklin County CDC.

The micro program, which benefits all businesses in Western Massachusetts, provides new and growing businesses with the technical assistance they need to apply for loans. The three organizations — Springfield Neighborhood Housing Services, the North Adams Chamber of Commerce and Franklin County CDC — collaborate to disperse the funds.

“It’s basically the state making a big commitment to help small businesses start, stabilize and grow,” she said.

Shapiro said after more than a year in a pandemic, businesses — some of which paused during the pandemic, while others pivoted and redesigned their business models — are in need of resources to help them move forward.

“Part of our ongoing technical assistance is to continue to work with businesses … as they grow,” she said. “We’re coming out of such a difficult time that business owners are now looking around and seeing what resources are available. There’s a lot of state resources that are now available, and it’s our job to connect them to those opportunities.”

Shapiro said these funds will help businesses access resources to build their capacity, expand to new niches or “do things a little differently.” As an example, Franklin County CDC recently started a bookkeeping program to help small business owners with their bookkeeping needs.

“We know that’s a big need,” Shapiro said. “That was one of the drawbacks we saw this year: many businesses were behind on their bookkeeping, and it put them at a disadvantage when they were trying to access funding.”

Shapiro said the partnership between the Franklin County CDC, North Adams Chamber of Commerce and Springfield Neighborhood Housing Services is not new; in fact, they’ve been working together for the past year.

“The collaboration is to help us all work together to expand the capacity of small business owners,” she said. “We have been around for so many years and … have a solid program in providing business assistance. Our partners are just starting their business assistance programs, so we’re helping them develop those programs. The state funds will help them get stronger and deliver direct services to small businesses, as well as hire consultants.”

She said all three organizations have great teams that are committed to collaboration with the goal of supporting businesses.

“It’s a really great project,” Shapiro said. “We’ve been working all year together, so this isn’t new — it’s just additional funds to help us with the work we’ve been doing together all year. We’ve been recognized by the state as leaders in this work.”

Businesses interested in receiving assistance from the CDC should call 413-774-7204.

Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne


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