Over the last 15 months, COVID-19 has impacted economies around the world. Some businesses suffered drastically, especially many small businesses.
Our economic outlook is finally improving after months of uncertainty, allowing many businesses to get on the road to recovery – but those same businesses will feel the effects of the pandemic for quite some time.
Throughout this pandemic, we’ve focused the Federal CARES Act and State of Maryland funding towards our small, local businesses. We’ve distributed more than $20 million through four rounds of HoCo RISE business grants to local restaurants, live venues, artists, small retailers, farms, childcare and hotels.
This also includes $2 million of county funds for Howard County businesses when CARES funding was exhausted.
Each year during our budget cycle, we look for ways to meet the needs of our business community by creating opportunity for new entrepreneurs and small businesses locally.
After speaking to many entrepreneurs, we recognized that access to capital continues to be one of the biggest barriers to their success.
Lack of access to capital constrains their ability to start and to grow their businesses. The result is that underserved entrepreneurs have fewer opportunities to succeed.
That’s why in this year’s budget we included $1 million for a new small business tool, the Collateral Enhancement Program which will be used in conjunction with the Howard County Economic Development Authority (HCEDA) Catalyst Loan Programs, aimed at providing collateral assistance for qualified small business borrowers from Howard County.
The program is designed to help small businesses that don’t have sufficient collateral to get loan approval. Special preference is placed on business owners who are women, U.S. veterans, minorities or part of other socially disadvantaged groups.
The HCEDA Catalyst Loan Fund is a locally managed source of capital used to finance small growth oriented businesses whose projects will create permanent jobs and leverage private sector investment.
The Catalyst Loan Fund and Collateral Enhancement Program are complementary tools that will provide the critical support our small businesses need to jumpstart their organizations and put them on a path to success.
We will continue to ensure that there are clear opportunities for entrepreneurs to not just start their businesses in Howard County, but to grow here. We’re here to foster that growth – especially through the Maryland Innovation Center (MIC), which is central to creating a hub for emerging technology, innovation and cybersecurity companies in Howard County.
The MIC is more than just an incubator space – it provides vital resources, networks and capital not only for entrepreneurs ready to bring the next big idea to market but providing resources for existing business across the county.
For our small local businesses that are looking for their next step, Howard County is here to help. Whether you need funding to grow, incubator space or collateral for your next loan, Howard County has the resources to ensure you, and your business, succeed.
For more information contact the Howard County Economic Development Authority at 410-313-6500 or visit our website at HCEDA.org/business-support/catalyst-loans/.
Dr. Calvin Ball is Howard County Executive.