County Commissioners look to jump-start entrepreneurial businesses, startups

The Warren County Commissioners are looking at a new way to support small business development in the county.

Commissioner Ben Kafferlin pitched the idea during this week’s work session.

He cited statistics to show that the percent of self-employed and freelance workers in the economy is growing significantly.

“We should be braced for the same type of growth,” he said. “Warren County just seems to lag behind the national trend.”

Kafferlin explained that one of the major challenges those types of small businesses face is a lack of capital.

He said that government funds as well as traditional financing are available for large projects.

“If you come for a small amount of money on a new business idea, it’s hard to get anyone to pay attention to you. (It is) very hard to find capital at times,” he explained.

Called program related investment, Kafferlin said that a 501(c)3 non-profit organization would be able to make investments in private enterprise “as long as the interest is under market rate.”

He said such investment is usually done at low interest with no collateral.

“I think the community would step up and create such an organization,” he said, with the goal to develop a “revolving loan for small business development.”

While he said he hasn’t “decided what organization could do it,” he asked the rest of the board they “have the appetite to kick start it.”

Commissioner Cindy Morrison asked to see a more formal proposal while Commissioner Jeff Eggleston said he thinks “it sounds great. (There was) something done in that form years ago. I think it’s definitely needed, especially in conjunction with training programs. I can think of a number of businesses that that would jump start.”

Kafferlin suggested that the county could contribute some funds in order to cover legal fees to kick start the entity.

He suggested using county endowment funds while Eggleston suggested some of the funds remaining from the North Warren land deal.

“We’ve got to kick start some of these entrepreneurial businesses,” Eggleston added.

Kafferlin said a local farmer approached him looking for an avenue to obtain a $5,000-$10,000 loan.

“He said he consulted other entities but no one wanted to fund a project that small,” Kafferlin said, stressing that the focus would need “to be on organizations that can’t get financing otherwise.”

He said there are a lot of details to work out but if the board has an appetite to pursuit it that he’ll “put effort into it.”

“I definitely think it’s worth looking into,” Eggleston said.