(March 29, 2013) Worcester County officials expect to learn in April whether an application for funds for economic development was successful.
“I’m optimistic,” Economic Development Director Bill Badger told the Local Development Council during its meeting last week. “I’m looking forward to some good news.”
In February, the Worcester County Commissioners approved the request of Meredith Mears, deputy director of the Department of Economic Development, to work with Anne Arundel County in seeking funds generated by casinos for grants targeting small and minority-owned businesses.
All Maryland casinos contribute 1.5 percent of their proceeds to the grant program and Badger said last week that the fund now has about $7 million in it.
“The total pot has gotten pretty large,” he said.
The Maryland Board of Public Works is expected to approve grants of up to five years beginning July 1.
The Anne Arundel Economic Development Corporation, where Badger used to work as its chief executive officer, approached him about the joint application in January. The partnership was advantageous because the Anne Arundel corporation has an in-house revolving loan fund program with staff that has experience working with Minority Business Enterprise contractors.
“It only strengthened our application,” Badger said of the partnership.
Together, Anne Arundel and Worcester counties applied for $4.1 million. Worcester’s portion would be $500,000 yearly for five years or $2.5 million. Of Worcester’s yearly allotment, $400,000 would be available for loans and $100,000 would be available for equity investments.
Badger said the application was strong and he expects it to be successful.
“We’re looking hard to encourage entrepreneurship in the county,” Badger told the Local Development Council, which is mandated by the state to review local impact funds derived from gambling proceeds at the Casino at Ocean Downs.
Badger and Mears could use some assistance in letting people know about the funds that are expected to be available.
“Part of the challenge is getting the word out,” Badger said.
Badger is especially interested in letting the public know that Maryland’s definition of minority-owned businesses includes those owned by women.
“That’s great,” said Jim Rosenberg, vice chairman of the Local Development Council, who was presiding over last week’s meeting in the absence of Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan. “There’s so much need for that money.”
Badger was enthusiastic about the prospects for economic development.
“It’s an exciting topic for us as a county,” he said.
Although the Anne Arundel County staff will handle the administration of the loan, Worcester County has set up a local loan review committee. Members include Badger, a banker, a former banker, and John Hickman, regional director of the Eastern Shore Small Business Development Center at Salisbury University’s Perdue School of Business. That development center assists entrepreneurs and the small business community by offering one-on-one consulting, technical assistance and various training seminars