State Loans, Grants Shift Focus

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About halfway into a $200 million program of state loans and grants to small businesses, the Department of Economic and Community Development asked the legislature to allow it to prioritize industries that directly bolster the economy.

While restaurants, small retailers, chiropractor’s offices and maid services add to the quality of life in the state, since nearly all their business comes from locals, when they grow, the share of spending to another local business falls.

But businesses that create a better software package or medical device, factories that make parts for airplanes and consultants, marketing or architecture firms with clients outside the state can make the entire economic pie bigger.

Catherine Smith, DECD commissioner, said the staff asked themselves: “What more can we do to make sure we’re focusing on the things that can help not just the average Joe business here but really focusing more on businesses that are looking to expand beyond our borders?”

But she described the refocus of the program as “more of a tune-up than an overhaul,” and said the proportion of grants and loans to various kinds of businesses may not change much.

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