Commissioners approve loan program

Cory McCall, co-owner of Outdoor 76 addressed commissioners on Tuesday in support of a loan program developed by the Macon County Economic Development Commission which would provide loans for businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Photo by Brittney Lofthouse

Brittney Lofthouse 

Contributing Writer

Macon County Economic Development Director Tommy Jenkins, at the direction of Commission Vice-Chair Ronnie Beale, has developed Reopening Macon Fund, a small business loan program for Macon County business that mirrors a program initiated in Jackson County. 

“If there has ever been a time for this board to help our local business owners, that time is now,” said Beale. “A loan of $2,500 could make the difference in staying open or closing for good to a lot of our local stores.”

The loan program, which will provide $250,000 in loans, was unanimously approved by the board of commissioners Tuesday night. Funding for the program will come from the county’s Economic Development Fund, which currently sits at just under $1 million. The program will be administered through Mountain BizWorks, a nonprofit serving the business community in Western North Carolina. 

The mission of the Reopening Macon Fund is to support the basic needs of individuals employed by small businesses by providing bridge funding to small businesses during the COVID-19 crisis. Cory McCall, co-owner of Outdoor 76 addressed commissioners during the meeting in support of the fund. 

“We never thought that we would be in the position, which is typically our busiest time of year – Spring during hiking season,” said McCall. “But here we are.” 

McCall urged commissioners to approve the program, which could quickly provide working capital to local businesses who were shut down during the initial quarantine and who continue limited operations under current restrictions. 

Timothy Crabtree, owner of Motor Company Grill, noted that as a restaurant owner operating on a 3 to 4 percent profit margin, when his business was shut down, he lost several thousand dollars in food, which by mandate has to be used within a week. 

“We have seven days to use those fresh fruits and vegetables, which we weren’t able to do,” said Crabtree. “While $2,500 may not sound like a lot to many people, but with our profit margins, it is pretty substantial.” 

The loans can be up to $10,000 with a minimum loan of $2,500 – with no payments of any kind for the first six months of the loan. After six months, any principal that has not been refinanced by an SBA Disaster Loan or otherwise repaid, will convert to a second phase of 36 months principal and interest payments at a 5.5 percent interest. 

The loans can be used for payroll, accounts payable, fixed debts, or other bills. Businesses with less than 50 employees who have a physical location within Macon County are eligible to apply if they demonstrate a loss of revenue of 25% or more due to COVID-19.