Springfield business owners can now apply for microloans with 3% fixed interest

Katie ArnoldJP In The News

From The State Journal-Register.

Riley Eubanks /State Journal-Register

Springfield business owners who can’t get a loan from a traditional bank can now apply for advance funds designed specifically for them from a $2 million pool.

The Springfield City Council at its meeting Tuesday signed off on a new microloan program in partnership with St. Louis-based Justine Petersen. $50,000 will be set aside to hire an outreach specialist who will work alongside the city’s Office of Planning and Economic Development.

“Any business which can’t get a loan from a bank has an opportunity to be eligible for the loan,” said Robert Boyle, CEO and founder of Justine Petersen. Microloans from the organization are traditionally reserved for business owners with underprivileged backgrounds or who are in need of technical assistance, such as proper bookkeeping and other necessary business functions

Microloans from Justine Petersen are designed for businesses in low-income areas and the vast majority of loans in Springfield have gone to Black business owners. Justine Petersen was tapped to administer a similar loan program in late 2015 with $550,000 in committed loans from area banks.

Half of the money in the new $2 million pool is funded by the Small Business Association with the other half being made of $250,000 commitments from Bank of Springfield, Carrolton Bank, INB and PNC Bank.

Justine Petersen also plans to partner with the Springfield Black Chamber of Commerce on outreach within the city regarding the loan program.

“Well I appreciate everyone’s support for them … to allow loans to businesses that might not qualify for traditional bank financing, so it definitely will help with the recovery,” said Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder.

He continued, “The partnership with the Springfield Black Chamber of Commerce will be good with Justine Peterson and the city for the outreach effort and making sure everybody understands what’s available to them. And that will be a program offered throughout the city.”

Boyle told city council his organization is committed to physical outreach within the community to help inform business owners about the benefit of the loan program in-person. He also encouraged aldermen to host district-wide meetings informing their residents about the program.

“I’m very happy about this program … I think this is a very good partnership,” said Ward 2 Ald. Shawn Gregory. “I’m glad we finally got it sunk in and I really think it’s going to be a benefit for the city.”

Loans will have 3% fixed interest rates with 2% closing costs and possible collateral costs for loans larger than $10,000, Boyle said.

Those interested in inquiring about the loan immediately can contact the city by calling (217) 789-2377 or Justine Petersen at (314) 533-2411.

Lobbying ordinance amended

Prior to approving an ordinance allocating $75,000 toward lobbying efforts for the city, that ordinance was amended to require council approval prior to any municipal lobbyist or lobbying entity being hired from that pool of money.

Lobbying dollars will be used to advocate the city’s interests while the Illinois state legislature is in session. Lobbying efforts will be focused on bills that aren’t already targeted by Illinois Municipal League lobbyists, Langfelder said.

Ward 6 Ald. Kristin DiCenso proposed the amendment to require council approval while also saying she would prefer the city hires an individual lobbyist rather than spending smaller appropriations on a slew of lobbyists.

“The way I saw this hashing out was we would hire one lobbyist … they (would) lobby for the full city and for all parts of the city,” DiCenso said.

After the meeting, Langfelder said there’s benefits to hiring a lobbying entity.

“That’s probably going to be the benefit, if you have an entity that specializes in different areas,” Langfelder said. “I think that probably would be a greater strength as opposed to an individual lobbyist.”

Regardless, anybody or any entity officially lobbying to state lawmakers paid for under this ordinance will have to receive council approval at a future meeting.

Ward 8 Ald. Erin Conley asked Langfelder for city leaders to get together to prioritize a list of objectives and interests for the entire city, including council members, prior to the job description being posted.

The Illinois General Assembly is schedule to reassemble in October for the veto session.

Other ordinances approved

  • Land acquisition totaling more than $3.5 million on Ninth and 10th streets related to the ongoing Springfield Rail Improvement Project.
  • Reallocation totaling $1.4 million to Springfield Fire Department’s budget that was previously cut during the budget-making process in February. Money for the budget reallocation will be provided by dollars the city received from the federal American Rescue Plan act.
  • Approval for loans totaling $5.5 million from JP Morgan Chase Bank to purchase vehicles for the city. On emergency passage, council approved purchases from that pool including $1,213,168 for a new Pierce 100-foot platform firetruck and $622,212 for a new Pierce enforcer engine, both items from St. Paul, Minnesota-based MacQueen Equipment LLC.