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REGIONALREPORT Western

Lending a much bigger hand

Mountain BizWorks Inc. was founded in 1989 as a lender of small loans to “unbankable” clients wanting to start businesses in western North Carolina. It soon discovered that some people are unbankable for a reason: The recipient of its first loan disappeared with the money. Nevertheless, the Asheville-based nonprofit forged ahead. Originally called Mountain Microenterprise Fund and bankrolled by the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center, it made nine loans that first year, none over $2,500. As the years grew, so did its lending — slightly. Still, its financing, coaching and consulting services have helped some of the region’s most popular businesses get off the ground: the Asheville-based alternative-weekly Mountain Xpress included 51 Mountain BizWorks clients in its 2011 Best of WNC list.

But now CEO Shaw Canale wants to lend larger sums to businesses past the startup phase. “We have to ask ourselves, if we’ve made $4 million in loans over 20 years, going forward, when we make somebody a tiny loan, are we just helping create a low-wage job?” It increased its single-loan cap from $50,000 to $250,000 and made three separate loans of $100,000, its largest ever, last year, and it wants to disburse $20 million in the next five years. That’s 250% more than what it’s lent over the past dozen. About 65% of its lending capital comes from low-interest U.S. Department of Agriculture and Small Business Administration loans, but to meet its lofty projection, Mountain BizWorks, which employs 13 full time, needs private investment from individuals and banks.

 

 

 Briefs

SPINDALEAlliance Precision Plastics, an injection-molded plastics and tooling manufacturer, will open a new plant here, creating 54 jobs and investing at least $300,000 in three years. The average annual wage will be $28,148, on par with Rutherford County’s average of $28,392. The Rochester, N.Y.-based company also will acquire locally based Molding Dynamics, which employs 28.

MARION Mission Health appointed Lynn Boggs president and CEO of McDowell Hospital. She previously was executive vice president and chief operating officer at SSM Healthcare — St. Louis.

ASHEVILLE — Portland, Maine-based TD Bank named Ross Sloan regional vice president for western North Carolina. He will oversee commercial banking.