The first steps are being made in implementing the Small Business Recovery Program in Roseboro.
After meeting with officials from the North Carolina Rural Center earlier this summer, the town and committee members will now have the opportunity to meet and talk with Deb Markley, co-founder and managing director of the Center for Rural Entrepreneurship.
The Small Business Recovery Program will provide long-term planning and technical assistance to selected areas. Additionally, the program will provide a locally administered loan fund to promote entrepreneurship and small business development in the community.
Along with six other communities, Roseboro was selected to receive help over the next two years to rebuild their local economy in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew. Other towns selected included Fair Bluff, Kinston, Lumberton, Pembroke, Princeville and Whiteville.
That help begins Tuesday, Sept. 12, when Markley will meet with members of the community who are interested in helping Roseboro grow. The meeting will take place from 8:30-11:30 a.m. at Uncle Vinny’s in downtown.
The Center for Rural Entrepreneurship is a national non-profit organization that helps communities leverage assets, primarily their business, social and civic entrepreneurs, for a more prosperous future. Markley brings over 30 years of experience in community economic development. Before founding the center, she held academic positions and operated her own consulting practice. Her field-based research has been presented in academic journals, as well as to national public policy organizations and Congressional committees.
According to Barry Ryan, senior director of programs for the Rural Center, the Small Business Recovery Program is an effort to help struggling economies regain and recover, and chart the course for the future in the aftermath of a natural disaster.
“While the focus is on the impact of Hurricane Matthew, we are looking forward and trying to understand that in many cases, the impact is much broader than flooding damage,” Ryan said. “We want to focus on the small businesses and help them either get started or expand what they currently have.”
As part of the program, each participating community will receive an initial $100,000 investment in their local loan funds. Additional resources are available to increase funds to nearly $300,000 to meet the local demand for small business loans.
“The loan funds place the decision-making in the hands of the local community,” Ryan explained. “It means each community has a say in building its own future.”
The structure of the program, Ryan added, allows for customized support for each town. The Rural Center will administer each fund and a committee of local leaders will direct the promotion of the fund and provide feedback on investment decisions.
“What works for one town may not be what works for Roseboro,” Ryan pointed out. “That’s why the decisions will fall locally.”
As part of the program, Rural Center business coaches will help each community create a tailored program to expand their capacity to identify, build or invest directly in the assets needed to create an entrepreneur-friendly infrastructure in their community and to rebuild and strengthen their small business economy.
Roseboro, like the other towns chosen to participate in the program, was selected through an intensive vetting process. The Rural Center invited towns to submit letters of interest and documentation of the impact of the storm on their local communities. Each application was thoroughly reviewed by the Center’s advisory committee before the final selections were made. Roseboro was a part of the Rural Center’s NC STEP program.
The Small Business Recovery Program was made possible with a grant from the Golden LEAF Foundation under the Disaster Recovery Act of 2016 and is part of the Rural Center’s larger disaster recovery efforts, which include the North Carolina Small Business Recovery Fund, an initiative to help the state’s small business community recover from the effects of Hurricane Matthew, the western wildfires, Tropical Storm Julia and Tropical Storm Hermine.
The North Carolina Small Business Recovery Fund was established earlier this year to provide low-interest loans of up to $250,000 for terms of up to 10 years. The loans are available to businesses in disaster-impacted areas of the state to help the state’s small business owners not only recover from a natural disaster but also plan for future.
To date, the fund has approved eight loans, committing more than $825,000 to small businesses in Cumberland, Dare, Johnston, Columbus, Carteret, Wilson and Wayne counties.
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.