Monday, December 6, 2010

Economic development: Small business lending

This news couldn't have come at a better time...just as the economic restructuring committee begins to review the local business incentive package, a public-private collaboration steps in to assists. Program to encourage $800 million in small business lending

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A new program announced Friday will free up to $800 million in capital for North Carolina’s small businesses over the next two years. The North Carolina Capital Access Program will support loan loss reserves that allow banks and other qualified financial institutions to make business loans that otherwise fall just outside of their normal underwriting standards. The program is made possible by the State Small Business Credit Initiative, part of the federal Small Business Jobs Act of 2010. President Obama signed the bill into law in September. Gov. Beverly Perdue designated the N.C. Rural Economic Development Center to administer $46.1 million that North Carolina will receive under the initiative.
Larry Barbour, CEO of North State Bank and chair of the North Carolina Bankers Association, called the program “the most significant step yet to bring statewide scale to our collective efforts to re-fuel the engine of job creation – our state’s small businesses.” All businesses located in North Carolina with 500 or fewer employees are eligible for loans under the program. The maximum loan amount is $5 million. Loans may be used to finance the acquisition of land, construction or renovation of buildings, purchase of equipment and working capital. The individual lenders will be responsible for approving loans and setting terms, including a loan loss reserve fee to be shared by the lender and borrower. The Capital Access Program will then match the loan loss reserve fee. Federally insured banks and credit unions, and community development financial institutions are eligible to participate in the program. The Rural Center will hold workshops around the state for interested lenders starting in early January

Friday, December 3, 2010

Promoting Ruralness: Smallwander

A tiny website with big goals:, a membership based travel club, offers downtown merchant organizations and/or tourist offices the opportunity to list organizations on their site that travelers would find interesting, such as restaurants, lodging, attractions, and events.  Member towns are able to share information about small town tourism by using the blog.  The network can facilitate the flow of travelers among like-minded towns...another unique way to further link fans of rural America.

Planning bites: Internet sweepstakes

Parlors Change Game or Close - Laws in NC Changes this week.

It appears the courts still have work to do. A letter filed by Mark Davis, Special Deputy Director of the Attorney General’s office,  has asked the appellate courts to review the constitutionality of NCGS 14-306.4, subpart (i) which examines and defines the extent of jurisdiction of the Superior Court judges  (i.e.- enforcement).  More to come....
The News and Observer reports: Although some sweepstakes players found locked doors and empty parlors Wednesday, the first day of an attempted statewide ban on the games, others found machines open for business.
By 5:30 p.m., players filled nearly all of the 25 seats inside B&G Sweepstakes on New Bern Avenue. Owner Dale Batise said the company that provides the software for his games had switched the machines to lawful versions. Other parlors around the city had signs in their front windows, promising to reopen within days, as new software could be installed on their computers. The new games are the latest workaround from an industry that has spent years battling the state legislature for the right to operate. New software will almost certainly mean new legal challenges. Though many parlors were shuttered, Batise said he trusted that the software firm Figure 8 Technologies had done the work needed for him to open. "I'm comfortable," he said, noting that he employed six full-time workers. "I didn't want to put my workers out of work." The legislature passed a law in July that outlawed electronic sweepstakes while permitting more traditional marketing games, including scratch-off tickets offered by fast-food restaurants. In video sweepstakes, customers generally buy Internet time at a computer terminal, which provides them credits to play casino-style games. At B&G, players acknowledge on a release form that they know the winners are predetermined.
A Guilford County judge recently ruled that video sweepstakes are protected free speech, but the judge said the state has the right to ban games that mimic gambling. In a similar case this week, a Wake County judge ruled for the state instead of a group of amusement companies that were fighting to stay in business.
Batise believes the Guilford County order opened an avenue for him to operate. He said many of his older games, including those that simulated slot machines and keno, are gone. One of the new games looks like an electronic version of a complicated tic-tac-toe.

Planning bites: Food truck

Across the state two big issues seem to be fighting over the planner’s spotlight; internet sweepstakes and food trucks

Since its the holidays and that gets me excited about food- let’s tackle the food trucks:
More and more triangle residents who aspire to own a restaurant are starting their food empires in the backs of trucks. The food truck scene is nothing new; it’s reawakening has been brewing for quite some time. A visit to the grub-centric city San Francisco will confirm this. However, here in the tar heel state, these nascent food truck chefs are running into one major roadblock- they can’t park on the street (can you imagine ordering your thai tempeh wrap from a moving vessel- yeah, that wouldn’t be pretty). So at the urging of these aspiring entrepreneurs, both Raleigh and Chapel Hill are considering changes to their regulations on street vending. Even though food trucks aren't banned on all streets or on private properties, owners say heavy restrictions on city streets keep them from making money. In Durham, where the food truck scene is exploding, food merchants are free to park on most city streets and students can even use their meal cards to buy from some truck (wow)….

Entrepreneurs argue that starting a business in the triangle markets is costly, that food trucks can be comparable to a business incubator- if you would -a test ground for their operations. I’ve also heard that it not allowing food trucks would be a disservice to those that are enchanted by the idea of eating food from a truck (I must admit that I fall into this category.) Some restaurateurs that pay heavy property taxes fear that someone with little or no overhead can slice into a prime piece of the real estate pie without the same fiscal responsibility to the community.  And of course, there’s the notion that food truck vending is can be unsightly and unsanitary.  As local planning committees hash over the idea of equitably distributing culinary vending rights, you can learn more about how other cities “cook the food culture contest”  or link to the N and O article that inspired this post

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


In February of 2009 the Obama Administration enacted the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, commonly referred to as the Stimulus or The Recovery Act, an economic stimulus package. The stimulus was intended to create jobs and promote investment and consumer spending during the recession. The rationale for the stimulus comes out of the Keynesian economic tradition that argues that government budget deficits should be used to cover the output gap created by the drop in consumer spending during a recession.  The measures are nominally worth $787 billion. The Act includes federal tax incentives, expansion of unemployment benefits and other social welfare provisions, and domestic spending in education, health care, and infrastructure, including the energy sector. The Act also includes numerous non-economic recovery related items that were either part of longer-term plans (e.g. a study of the effectiveness of medical treatments), No Republicans in the House and only three Republican Senators voted for the bill. The bill was signed into law on February 17 by President Obama.

In the rural scope of things, the community where I live and work, Washington, NC, positioned itself to leverage stimulus funds to assist with our own "recovery". I've spent the last 12-months working towards creating a project portfolio to expand investment, create jobs, and improve the efficiency of public and private buildings. I hope to use this blog as a transparency platform for our constituents as our municipality implements ARRA and other rural development projects.