When the owners of Moose and More, the ice cream and chocolate shop on Main Street, were getting ready to open last year, cash was a key ingredient.
They started by going to a Durango bank, which referred them to Region 9 Economic Development District of Southwest Colorado.
“Since 2008, banks have had to cut back on some of the risk they take on,” said Rachel McWhirter, who owns the shop with her husband, Brent.
To help fill the gaps between what a bank can loan and what businesses need, the economic development district loans out about $1.8 million a year across Southwest Colorado.
“In exchange for the potential of creating new jobs, we take a higher risk than banks do,” said Ed Molan, the executive direction of Region 9. It’s also fairly common for banks to refer businesses to Region 9, he said.
To qualify for a loan, the McWhirters had to meet with a Region 9 representative, who went over their business plan and presented it to the Region 9 board.
Region 9 was pleased to get an application from Montezuma County. From 1990 through June 2015, Montezuma County has received about 17 percent of Region 9’s cumulative loans. During that same time, about 63 percent of the Region 9’s loans have supported business in La Plata County.
The board was also happy to see the shop planned on a diverse menu, the McWhirters said.
But they asked the McWhirters to look for a location closer to restaurant row along Main Street and make other changes in late February 2015.
After finding their space next to the Sunflower Theatre, the two had their check by the first week in April.
“It was not a long drawn-out process,” Brent McWhirter said.
The loan allowed them to buy equipment, like a blast freezer, and hire three high school students.
“I don’t know if we would have had a good product,” Rachel McWhirter said, about starting up without the loan.
Recently, Region 9 announced it received a $580,000 community development block grant to lend to businesses from the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade.
In addition to larger loans of $100,000 or more, the program provides micro-loans to small business and entrepreneurs that can include up to $5,000 in grants for technical assistance.
This is the seventh community development block grant for the region and those grants have brought in $1.16 million. The previous community block grant contract helped fund 36 loans and two feasibility studies totaling over $1.353 million.
Region 9 serves La Plata, Archuleta, Montezuma, Dolores and San Juan counties.
For more information about Region 9 loans, visit www.scan.org or contact Loan Officer Jenny Stollar, 247-9621 or firstname.lastname@example.org.