Home Business St. Thomas business FOUNDATION HAS MADE $1 MILLION IN LOANS



Sept. 10, 2001 – Through its Intermediate Relending Program and the recently launched Women's Business Center-Citibank Micro Loan Program, the St. Croix Foundation has provided $1 million in loans to small businesses in the territory.
Roger Dewey, foundation executive director, noted, "Access to capital can be a major obstacle in business expansion success, and the availability of these funds has paved the way for remarkable business development and growth in our community."
He added, "When one compares our loan portfolio with that of conventional banks in the territory, we are actually supporting the needs of small businesses on a greater scale."
The relending program was launched in 1996, capitalized initially by a $1 million low-interest loan from the Rural Development Agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and then additionally by a joint donation from Chase Manhattan Bank and Virgin Islands Community Bank. The program's primary goals are to provide economic growth, to create and/or preserve employment opportunities for the St. Croix community, and to provide funds not otherwise available to businesses.
The program issues loans exclusively on St. Croix and to date has disbursed $975,000 to such small businesses as a laundromat, barber salon, woodworking shop, shoe repair shop, religious music center and retail clothing store. This year, eight loans were approved, averaging about $33,250. The maximum for a loan under the program is $100,000.
Since the program's inception, 42 loans have been issued and 63 jobs have been created.
"Small businesses are the backbone of all economies," Dewey said. "Creating 63 jobs simply by affording aspiring entrepreneurs the opportunity to make a contribution to our economy illustrates just how important it is to support private-sector development."
The Women's Business Center-Citibank Micro Loan Program was launched in July funded by a $150,000 loan from Citibank. Already it has closed on six loans — three on St. Croix and three on St. Thomas — totaling $25,000. Beneficiaries include an art gallery, a tea-processing company, a food mobile and a consulting/marketing firm.
To be eligible for a micro loan, an applicant must be a current client of the Women's Business Center. The center, a partnership of the U.S. Small Business Administration and the St. Croix Foundation, provides services and programs that support and accelerate women's business ownership and strengthen women's impact on the economy.
According to literature of the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund, providing micro credit improves the earning capacity of small entrepreneurs, particularly women, and helps them to increase family income.
Yvette deLaubanque, WBC director, applauded Citibank for its support. "People in the Caribbean historically are entrepreneurial because of dire and forced social conditions," she said. "At the WBC, we dispel the notion that people here do not yearn for economic independence, and our micro program proves this."
Ongoing technical assistance — including seminars, counseling and WBC E-Mart, an online marketplace — provides borrowers the tools to facilitate business success, according to a release. The small entrepreneurs also will have the opportunity to participate in an E-Commerce Summit on Oct. 25 and a Business Expo set for Oct 26-27. For more information on these activities, call the WBC at 773-4995 or visit the Women's Business Center web site.
Lending programs constitute just one of the many economic and social activities the St. Croix Foundation directs. To obtain more information about services, or to find out how you can contribute, call 773-9898.


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