Orillia Packet & Times, Progress Edition 2014 – The Orillia Area Community Development Corp. (CDC) offers much-needed financing and equally critical training and resources in an effort to help local businesses succeed.
Providing business loans is a “very important part of what we do,” said Wendy Timpano, the CDC’s general manager. “We work closely with and coach hundreds of clients and being able to provide funds is valuable to them. We are a lender that fills a void in the community.”
The CDC manages a portfolio of $4 million, providing a financial lifeline to many enterprises thanks to its more flexible pay-back options and its custom business-oriented policies.
“For example, we take into consideration if a business is seasonal that a traditional payment plan may negatively impact cash flow … we’re flexible,” said Timpano, who noted staff walk applicants through the loan process that can take anywhere from two weeks to several weeks depending on the complexity of the application and the nature of the business. “Some businesses, such as restaurants, are considered risky by more traditional lenders, but we generally have a higher tolerance for risk. So we work closely with traditional lenders to try to meet the clients needs.”
In addition to custom business loans, the CDC also offers targeted funding programs. The Peter Street-based organization recently developed a façade improvement program providing up to $10,000 for local businesses to improve the exterior of their business. They also created a special program for participants and graduates of the Self Employment Assistance program, offering loans of up to $5,000 to help entrepreneurs launch their ventures.
“For these programs, we offered a more simplified, streamlined application process to make it easy to apply for,” said Timpano. “I’m really looking forward to developing more programs like these … we are always looking for new ideas.”
The local federally-funded agency offers more than just cash. Relying on input from the recent business retention and expansion survey and extensive feedback from its broad range of clients, the CDC has developed a comprehensive professional development program that offers a variety of tools and resources for businesses of all shapes and sizes.
“Our Professional Development Program includes three pillars,” said Jacqueline Bayley, who co-ordinates the program.
The first pillar aims to support new enterprises by helping entrepreneurs develop a business start-up plan, understand basic financials and to explore marketing opportunities.
“We take the time to sit down face to face to discuss a person’s business ideas to determine how we can help them achieve their goals,” said Timpano. “Through this process, we try to arm people with the tools and information they need to have a successful business.”
The second pillar of support focuses on business excellence training. The CDC offers a series of seminars and training sessions designed to meet specific needs within the business community. Topics vary and have included human resources, succession planning, customer service, using social media and many other subjects.
“What we do is bring in professional facilitators and host these sessions at various times throughout the year,” said Timpano, noting some are free and some have a nominal $40 fee. “We’re able to do this because we have 15 community partners that provide refreshments, space, marketing, financial support or some type of assistance. They are critical to this program.”
Bayley said the series of seminars has proven popular. “Many small businesses don’t have a lot of money for training, so to be able to offer these professional seminars provides real value for our business community.”
The third component of the CDC’s ambitious program to help local entrepreneurs is its business support initiative, offering strategically-targeted certificate training.
“We offer subsidized specialized training such as First Aid or fork-lift training and research whatever is needed in the local business community to bring that training to the business,” said Bayley.
From new businesses to established local landmarks, the CDC can help, Timpano said.
“While every business is different and has different needs, we are a good place to start for anyone looking for support for their business.”
For more information, you can follow the CDC on Facebook and Twitter or check out its website, orilliacdc.com that features their workshop calendar, webinars, information about funding and an opportunity to subscribe to a monthly newsletter. You can also drop into the office at 22 Peter St. S. or call 705-325-4903.