Small business is at the core of the state’s economy and is a critical component of our future economic growth. In an effort to meet the needs of our state’s small business community, the EDC created the Every Company Counts initiative in 2004. Every Company Counts (ECC) is a network of more than thirty-five public/private partners dedicated to the success of small businesses in Rhode Island. ECC provides companies with quick answers to their questions, connections to business services partners and follow-ups up with customers to discern whether Rhode Island is doing a good/adequate/poor/excellent job helping a small business grow. This is landmark data that has never been collected previously.
The EDC also oversees the Rhode Island Small Business Loan Fund Corporation (SBLFC) a revolving loan fund, aimed at assisting the state’s small business community which has had continued success. The SBLFC provides direct financing and participates as a subordinated lender with area financial institutions, serving small businesses that are unable to secure financing or the full amount of proceeds necessary from a conventional lender. Special funding programs under SBLFC include The Urban Enterprise Equity Fund and the Brownfields Cleanup Revolving Fund.
In 2005, the SBLFC initiated the Microbusiness Loan Program. The SBLFC has set aside $500,000 in its Micro-Business Emerging Growth Fund, a pilot program intended to aid small businesses. The money is being carved out of the $4 million available through the Small Business Loan Fund Corporation, an arm of the EDC.
Additional activities, initiatives and programs aimed at assisting the state’s small business community include:
- The creation and launch of the Rhode Builder Program in 2005, which was developed to address the small business management and mentoring needs. An intensive “MBA” style of program, with mentoring by Rhode Island’s business leaders, will strengthen the competencies of the state’s small business community.
- The creation of a new small business loan fund program – The EDC along with its partners, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM), First Pioneer Farm Credit, the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Rhode Island Center for Agricultural Promotion and Education (RICAPE), established a small business loan program aimed at supporting the state’s growing agricultural tourism (aka, agritourism) business. Agritourism refers to the act of visiting a working farm or any agricultural, horticultural or agribusiness operation for the purpose of enjoyment, education or active involvement in the activities of the farm or operation.
Through this small business loan fund program, $250,000 will be made available to those businesses involved in agritourism. Loans will range from $10,000-$25,000. These funds will be used for the following upgrades at agritourism venues: physical plant, parking lots, and other visitor amenities and services.