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New Fund Offers Businesses Lending  Option

Lebanon — A new nonprofit group is hoping to begin soon making commercial loans to under-served small businesses and projects that will create jobs and help Upper Valley residents living in poverty.

The Valley Community Loan Fund will lend money to marginal or higher risk projects and businesses that aim to provide new jobs or workforce housing in the Upper Valley and that don’t qualify for money from banks or other conventional lenders, said Paul Tierney, of Norwich, one of the organizers and chief executive officer of the loan fund.

“We estimate that there are 35,000 people living under the poverty level and 12 percent to 15 percent of them are children,” Tierney said. “There’s a need for about 2,000 workforce housing units in our area,”

The fund will serve southwestern New Hampshire and southeastern Vermont, with an initial focus on the Upper Valley.

Recent changes in the federal banking laws make it even more difficult for some small businesses and projects, such as building affordable housing, to get loans through banks. “We want to make the loans that will provide a permanent fix to help move these people out of poverty,” Tierney said.

The Valley Community Loan Fund is one of about 500 community loan funds in the country. Most of them are run by municipalities and county governments to provide economic stimulus, Tierney said.

The new fund, which is based in Lebanon, at 60 Hanover St., hopes to raise $6 million to $7 million for projects, although Tierney said the need for funds of this type in the Upper Valley is “bottomless.”

For example, the 2,000 units of workforce housing could cost $150,000 each. “That’s $300 million,” Tierney said. “We don’t expect to raise that much, but the need is there for that and more.”

The Valley Community Loan Fund also will work with state community loan funds in both Vermont and New Hampshire on larger projects, Tierney said, noting that the loans will be at market commercial rates. There may be exceptions for low-interest loans under some circumstances.

The nonprofit also offers business and project counseling, he said.

For more information, call 603-448-4553 or visit www.valleyclf.org.