Decisions a Decade Ago Yield Big Benefits
BY BILL RUBIN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
The West Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission (RPC) serves a seven county region in the St. Croix and Chippewa Valleys. In 2005, the RPC agreed to participate in a pilot program originating out of Madison. The initiative asked towns, villages, cities, and counties to consider consolidating their existing revolving loan funds into a new, consolidated account. The proposed fund would be subject to uniform policy guidelines compared to assorted standards across the region.
In return for consolidating the funds, leaders from local government learned that Madison and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) were willing to remove the onerous federal conditions tied to the 2005 loan funds.
Readers should note the term onerous is the blog’s author. Restrictions like prevailing wages for new construction activities, a demonstrated benefit to low- and moderate-income individuals and families, and new job creation requirements were among those federal conditions.
After a series of region-wide conversations, the elected boards started to act on the proposition to consolidate the funds. By late 2007, an agreement between the RPC and a charitable nonprofit called the Regional Business Fund, Inc. (RBF) was in place for RBF to administer the consolidated loan funds. The fund was capitalized at about $17 million, thanks to the towns, villages, cities, and counties.
Akin to a civic miracle, 31 of 32 units of government in the region agreed to the consolidation. All seven communities in St. Croix County, including the town of Hudson, villages of Hammond, Somerset, and Woodville, cities of Hudson and New Richmond, and the county agreed to the initiative.
It’s been a little more than 10 years since the consolidated fund took shape. RBF administrators report 113 loans, totaling just over $8.2 million and supporting 109 businesses, have been approved in St. Croix County since inception. Thirty-eight (38) of the loans were for start-ups. Since most of RBF’s loans are considered gap financing, other lenders and/or financing agencies participate. Their involvement totals just over $42 million. As for job retention and creation, an estimated 870 pre-loan jobs go along with almost 700 new jobs. All statistics are through May 31, 2017.
There’s a lot of credit to go around: to the RPC, the RBF and its staff, RBF’s board of directors which includes representation from all seven counties, St. Croix EDC’s loan fund which includes representation from the seven participating communities, and the local loan committees.