$2 million up for grabs for Hudson Valley businesses

community capital grantBEACON — Small businesses in the Hudson Valley can look forward to a new $2 million fund for microloans.

Money from Community Capital New York can make a huge difference to a little enterprise.

Just ask Ernie Molina.

Molina and his wife, Mary, began their business, Lola Granola, named after their daughter, several years ago when they’d hit hard times financially. The Bedford Hills couple got a loan from the Community Capital nonprofit and parlayed that into a business that has now grown to national distribution.

Community Capital lends to start-ups and small firms that may not be able to get money from conventional banks and who turn unwisely to their credit cards or high-cost online lenders.

Mercedes Nunez, now 39, came to the United States from the Dominican Republic and cleaned buildings. With a loan, she expanded her Palisades Cleaning Service in Rockland County.

“I was struggling because I was growing too fast,” she told a crowd gathered at the Beacon riverfront at the sponsor’s announcement event. She drew money from her personal credit cards to meet payroll.

“My bank couldn’t give me money because they know I need money,” she said, drawing knowing chuckles from the crowd. Now she employs 35, mostly moms. She plans to switch banks.

Community Capital New York has won a $1 million grant from New York state and is able to match it with a similar kitty from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the nonprofit lender announced Thursday.

The lender makes loans in the range of $1,000 to $50,000 to small businesses to use for equipment, inventory, materials, marketing, licensing, business debt refinancing and working capital.

However, with newly added state funding, Community Capital can consider loans up to $250,000 and can also give clients a line of credit, said Fernando Ahumada, a vice president of lending. These are flexible options they did not have when they had only SBA money and its rules, she said.

The influx of $1 million comes from the state’s Regional Economic Development Council Initiative and was announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The grant has been tagged, “Million for Main Street.”

Meghan Taylor, director of that council, said Community Capital’s approach “really does bottom-up economic development,” and that because it’s a revolving loan model will mean repayments get recycled into still other businesses over the years. “We could not be more excited for you guys to get underway,” she said.

“The award of $1 million for loan capital will enable Community Capital to make loans to business owners and potential business owners that need access to capital to launch and grow,” said Executive Director Kim Jacobs. “We recognize that independent, locally-owned businesses are the backbone of our local economy and we are eager to help them succeed.”

It will be called the Hudson Valley Opportunity Fund and is open in Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster and Westchester counties in the lower Hudson Valley.

The announcement event was at Scenic Hudson’s kayak pavilion at the Beacon waterfront, which Jacobs said exemplified some themes in the new program, which includes waterfront, tourism and nonprofits. Other focuses are urban revitalization, agriculture, food service or hospitality, mixed-use developments and reaching entrepreneurs who include women, veterans and minorities.

Catering for the event was by Homespun Foods, a Beacon business begun by Jessica Reisman, who used a Community Capital loan to expand her enterprise to the Dia: Beacon museum where she opened a cafe.

Community Capital has made several loans in Dutchess County in past years.