Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Clay Business-Loan Proposal in Jeopardy

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Clay Business-Loan Proposal in Jeopardy

Article excerpt

Last month, the Clay County Commission authorized an application for a federal grant to provide low-interest loans to help businesses expand and create new jobs for high school graduates.

But business owners who had hoped to tap into the money pool may have to look elsewhere for financial aid.

County Manager Bob Wilson and Finance Director Don Moore say the application should be scuttled because the county lacks the resources to administer loans to private businesses.

"I don't think this is a good thing for the county," said Wilson. "I don't think we have the capability of administering this."

Wilson said the issue will be referred to the County Commission to resolve Tuesday.

The first indication that the loan program was in jeopardy arose at a Budget, Finance and Personnel Committee meeting April 29, during which Moore said he could not recommend the county proceed with the application.

"Finance is not set up to collect and remit loan payments," Moore said.

Nor, he said, is the county prepared to foreclose on loans if borrowers fail to repay them, a situation that would put the county in the "collection, repossession and foreclosure business."

Betty Jordan & Associates, a grant consulting firm in Orange Park, has worked closely with the Clay County Development Authority to find qualified applicants for the loans.

Following a public hearing last month, Jordan was authorized by the County Commission to proceed with the application for $750,000 in federal funds funneled through the Florida Department of Community Affairs.

The program is designed to provide affordable loans for small businesses to expand and create additional jobs for low- to moderate-income workers.

With the assistance of the Clay County Development Authority, Jordan has received requests from about a half dozen business owners seeking approximately $700,000 in loans. …

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