Business Time

The Motley City Council learned, Monday how residents of Cass County — or those who want to start a business there — can receive some help in getting off the ground.

Cass County Economic Development Corporation Program Administrator Marina Lovell gave a presentation at the Council’s monthly meeting about her organization and how it can help business owners. The corporation is a 501(c)3 member supported, non-governmental, nonprofit. Unlike many similar organizations, it is not a part of local government.

“We give no-cost assistance to Cass County residents or Cass County businesses,” Lovell said. “You don’t have to be a resident of Cass County, but you have to be either a resident or a business owner in the county. Our name comes from Cass County because that’s the area that we work in, not because we are a government spinoff.”

Assistance is offered to residents who want to start, buy or sell a business, or those who want to grow or learn more about a current business. The nonprofit receives funding from the Cass County government, membership support and the Small Business Development Center (SBDC).

“Each state has an SBDC,” Lovell said. “Each region has an SBDC, and we are the north-central region. An SBDC is going to be supported by an educational institution. Our particular one is housed at Central Lakes College.”

Lovell and Corporation Executive Director Mike Paulus, along with “a couple of consultants,” take on the work of helping people with business plans. That includes projections, getting financials in order and working with banks to apply for loans and helping them prepare for succession.

Lovell said the organization has recently been working to better get the word out about its services.

“I think a lot of people think that we’re part of the government; if they even think of, you know, ‘I wonder who can help me in my business?’” she said. “We wanted to spread the word so now all of you know about us. If you know of anybody who wants to go into business, wants to buy a business, is thinking of selling, wanting to retire, we can help with any of those kinds of things.”

To receive assistance, a person needs only to register through the Central Lakes College database. When the corporation works with them, it invoices the SBDC for payment. That is how it is able to offer assistance free of charge.

Motley City Council Member Amy Hutchison said she actually had experience working with the Cass County Economic Development Corporation.

“I didn’t buy the business, but we were very close,” she said. “There’s so much involved in buying a business, or changing it over. It was even a little beyond me. The services you guys provide are amazing.”

One of the key services the organization offers is working with lenders and bankers. Lovell said it puts together financial projections that a potential lender will want to see before approving a loan. Having information provided by the corporation can also help a potential borrower seem more legitimate.

“... rather than somebody just thinking, ‘I think I might get this income. I won’t have those kind of expenses,’” Lovell said.

Last year, the corporation worked with the USDA to convert $70,000 from its revolving loan fund into emergency loans to help businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Through that process, it was able to support 12 Cass County businesses with $5,000 loans with no interest and deferred payments for six months.

All of them were able to stay in business, Lovell said, in part due to assistance from Cass County Economic Development Corporation.

Paulus was also able to work with the state to get it to serve as a pass-through lender for small business emergency loan funds in the amount of $285,000. That supported 10 Cass County businesses with loans ranging from $10,000 to $35,000.

“All of those business were also able to continue,” Lovell said. “One of them, in particular, had to be closed for the whole 12 months because their situation didn’t allow for them to do social distancing. Those funds enabled them to stay in business without any income.”

Motley City Council Briefs:

In other business Monday, the Motley City Council:

• Awarded a quotation of $3,150 to JHFoster for an air compressor to be purchased for the Motley Fire Department, provided it is still cheaper than other bids with shipping included;

• Swore in new full-time Police Officer Cody Holtz;

• Received word from Motley Police Chief Jason Borash that the city will be able to continue its prescription drug disposal program with the help of the Morrison County Sheriff’s Office;

• Scheduled a budget workshop for 5 p.m., Aug. 31, at Motley City Hall prior to the planning and zoning meeting;

• Scheduled the budget levy public hearing for 6 p.m., Dec. 13, prior to the Council’s regular meeting; and

• Reported positive feedback on the city’s first National Night Out, which was held in Converse Park on Aug. 3.

“It’s awesome for our city,” said Council Member Steve Johnson. “It shows that we have got a lot of people doing a lot of good things.”

The next meeting of the Motley City Council is at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 13, at Motley City Hall.

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