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Regional loan fund taking shape
MONROE - A southwest Wisconsin regional revolving loan fund is taking shape, with the Green County Board of Supervisors' authorization to participate Tuesday, March 12 and the City of Monroe Common Council's authorization expected next week.

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation requires one more county in the region - Lafayette, Iowa or Grant - to participate before taking the next step in the formation of the SWED board, according Anna Schramke, executive director for Green County Development Corporation. Richland County has already declared itself a participant.

Sixteen communities, including the five counties in the region, are eligible to join the SWED. They may join later, but early participants will help establish the guidelines, administration and policies for the new organization and loan programs. The City of Monroe would not be able to join without Green County participating, City Administrator Phil Rath said.

The city's Revolving Loan Fund Committee recommended Monday, March 11 that the Common Council approve participating. The council is expected to act on the recommendation Tuesday, March 19.

"There's not a lot of choice," City Attorney Rex Ewald told the committee Monday.

The city could continue its own revolving loan fund, but by not being a participant of the regional revolving loan program, the state "will most likely not step in to help local loan programs," Ewald said. With the regional program, the city "would be able to do some things we otherwise would not be able," he added.

The city and the county loan programs would remain in effect and their committees would be able to review and approve or deny loan applications up to amounts set by the SWED board, which would be under $125,000. Working in conjunction, the county and city could provide a business loan package of up to $500,000.

Under the regional program, local funds would be consolidated, increasing the flexibility to fund business projects. New loans categories will be set up, including micro loans for small start-ups; central business district reinvestment loans for building facades; and capital investment loans directed at retaining businesses and jobs.

Under the new regional plan, municipalities would be relieved of the legal responsibilities for the loan program and the administrative burdens.

For business projects, income requirements would be removed allowing job creation in all categories, including higher paying skilled jobs. Also removed would be the Davis-Bacon rule that requires local prevailing wages to be paid on public projects, which would reduce businesses' construction costs and encourage the use of local contractors.