A diverse group of local businesses have the North Simcoe Community Futures Development Corp. to thank for helping them get off the ground.

The federally funded corporation, located at 105 Fourth St. in Midland, has been assisting local small and medium businesses for more than 30 years. The corporation manages an investment fund worth over $4.65 million, which is used to provide loans to businesses throughout the region.

“Our objective is to help improve economic growth, economic diversification and assist in the creation and maintenance of jobs in the community,” said general manager Chris McLaughlin.

In 2016-17, a total of $1.2 million worth of loans were awarded to business in the region. Last year 14 more loans were made.

Currently, about $3.9 million of the $4.65 million is out in the community.

“Traditionally, we help with startups, expansions or maintenance,” said McLaughlin. “We can help businesses that find themselves in a situation where they need to overcome a cash-flow issue and need an influx of money for a short period of time to maintain their operations.”

Loans ranging from a little as $500 up to a maximum of $250,000 are available. The average loan approved by the NSCFDC is about $45,000.

“We are a bank, but we don’t behave like a bank,” said loan officer Sylvia Bumstead. “We establish really good relationships with all of our loan clients. We are also a little more flexible when it comes to payments, and we try to assist seasonal businesses.”

When it comes to assessing a business and deciding whether or not to approve a loan, the NSCFDC is a lot more lenient than an average lender. The entire impact of that business being placed in the community, or continuing to operate in the community, is taken into consideration.

“Is there job creation? Is it something new in the community? Is it sustainable? These are all key factors in deciding if we are going to lend money to someone,” said McLaughlin.

The goal is to lend money to a business for three to five years and then help transition the business to a traditional banking system so the money can be paid back. The funds are then recirculated back into the community.

Initially, the investment fund was just under $2.1 million, but through lending and interest payments it has grown to more than $4.65 million.

“We have a very diverse portfolio, with manufacturing, healthcare, art and culture, grooming services, restaurants and more,” said McLaughlin. Their financial services are confidential.

Along with providing financial assistance, the organization also offers business coaching, counselling and is involved in projects focused on economic development.

Staff regularly hosts workshops for businesses, holds events during small-business week, assists with the Meridian Women of Excellence awards and are working on improving broadband connectivity for the area. They are organizing a skilled-trades breakfast in February and an agricultural breakfast in April.

Business owners in need of assistance can contact the office at 705-526-1371.