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Southern Indiana chamber of commerce finalizing loan selections for New Albany small businesses

A sign advertising that "businesses are open" sits on gravel along Main Street in downtown New Albany, which has been under construction for months.
Aprile Rickert
LPM News
One Southern Indiana, the local chamber of commerce, is finalizing loan selections for small businesses affected by road construction and bridge closures in downtown New Albany.

Some small business owners in New Albany impacted by downtown construction and intermittent Sherman Minton Bridge closures will soon get relief in the form of zero-interest loans from the local chamber of commerce.

Wendy Dant Chesser, president and CEO at One Southern Indiana, said 14 businesses completed applications by the deadline earlier this month.

The businesses applied for a total of nearly $304,000, with each asking for an average of just under $22,000.

Dant Chesser said New Albany City Council member Jason Applegate, who was council president at the time, approached the chamber of commerce about getting involved in mid-December.

“[One Southern Indiana] has a mission to help business,” she said. “We don't discriminate based on the size of the business. And this is our way to engage when companies need help.”

Repayment of the 36-month loans, administered by One Southern Indiana, will start in January 2024.

A total of $121,000 is available for the New Albany businesses through the initiative: $50,000 from the Floyd County government, $50,000 from the City of New Albany, and $21,000 from the Caesars Foundation of Floyd County.

The loans can go toward payroll, mortgage or rent payments, and utilities.

“This was set up to be an emergency program that would help businesses maintain where they are,” Dant Chesser said. “It was not established to help people do renovations or new inventory or new product lines.”

The chamber used an independent loan review committee to score and rank the businesses based on need, using information like their annual or monthly sales trends.

She said the group expects to start scheduling loan closings this week.

The New Albany City Council previously explored using American Rescue Plan funds to help the struggling businesses but determined the money couldn't be used for that purpose.

The council approved last week its portion of the loan funds, as well as $20,000 to go toward an advertising campaign in partnership with SoIN Tourism and Develop New Albany — a group that advocates for economic development in downtown.

Applegate said the council heard from some business owners who expressed concerns about a drop in sales during the Main Street Revitalization Project, which has left portions of the street and sidewalk torn up in recent months.

“I had some business owners, you know, appreciate that there was an option that didn’t cost them anything to borrow the money,” Appegate said of the loans.

During a recent council meeting, however, one business owner said though the loans could help the owners get by, it doesn’t fix all the issues the project has caused.

Applegate told LPM News on Wednesday that the council has always felt there were three elements to the solution — making sure construction is expedited, getting some financial options for businesses and advertising to bring people downtown.

“And all three of those items are going on now,” he said.

Alongside the loan program, Applegate said he will continue looking for other ways to help the businesses.

“I know I am — [and] I would hope that other council members are — trying anything and everything to figure out if there's additional funds out there,” he said. “I hope the business owners themselves are out trying to find if there's other opportunities. And I think it's just a collaborative effort that if anybody can find anything, let's share that information.”

The Main Street Revitalization Project is expected to finish around fall.

Coverage of Southern Indiana is funded, in part, by Samtec, Inc. and the Hazel & Walter T. Bales Foundation.

Aprile Rickert is LPM's Southern Indiana reporter. Email Aprile at arickert@lpm.org.

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