Multiple organizations offering resources for area small businesses affected by COVID-19

Published 9:11 pm Tuesday, May 12, 2020

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With the COVID-19 pandemic still impacting many local economies, small business owners might find themselves in need of resources just to stay in operation.

Albert Lea Economic Development Agency Executive Director Phillip Johnson said there are a multitude of resources available for small businesses in need of them.

Johnson’s first piece of advice to small business owners was to reach out to their lenders. He said he has spoken to many of the lenders in the area, and all of them are willing to work with their borrowers with deferments and zero interest.

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Johnson said he has also directed many owners to two state programs or two federal programs that are helping many business owners through the pandemic.

The Minnesota Small Business Emergency Loan Program is one of the state programs in which businesses impacted by the executive orders may receive no-interest loans between $2,500 and $35,000. The other program offered by the state, the Minnesota Small Business Loan Guarantee program provides an 80% guarantee loan for up to a maximum of $200,000.

However, Johnson said he realizes that for some businesses, taking out another loan is not an option.

“I get that there is or isn’t the possibility to take out another loan,” Johnson said. “I fully understand that. We’ve been discussing with the city and some of our other partners to see if there’s some other program we can come up with, which potentially may or may not be something other than a loan. Or maybe it’s something more forgivable like the Paycheck Protection Program.”

ALEDA recently created a webpage which is updated daily with new information and resources for small business owners. They also conducted a survey that asked many owners in the area about their experience throughout the pandemic so far and what types of things they need help with.

Johnson said over 50 businesses responded to the survey on its first day, and he is hopeful that ALEDA will be able to put something together for the businesses that are unable to utilize the state and federal programs.

One local business owner, Brad Kramer, said there are more programs that can help small businesses, not only with loans and grants, but general business advice as well.

Kramer said the Small Business Development Center, Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation, SCORE and ALEDA are all great resources for small business owners to reach out to. His advice to small business owners was to not go through this without help.

“There are a lot of free resources to bring that technical knowledge to business owners,” Kramer said. “Reach out. There are a lot of resources so don’t try to go it alone. Those resources might sometimes be hard to find, but when you find them, it opens up a lot of doors.”

Kramer, who owns and is principal consultant for Provenio Consulting, is also a volunteer consultant for SCORE mentoring. He said navigating some of the government programs can be challenging and asking for help can make them a lot easier.

Johnson agreed with Kramer’s advice to reach out for help when needed.

“Continue to reach out to either us, the city, the county, the CVB, the Chamber,” Johnson said. “Reach out to those resources. If those places don’t have the answers, I’m sure they’ll be able to direct you to the people who do have the answers. Reach out as much as possible. If you have issues, we’re here to help and we want to help you try to solve them.”


About Tyler Julson

Tyler Julson covers sports for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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