Sussex County unveils new public/private economic development loan program

GEORGETOWN – Sussex County is banking on a much bigger bang for its economic development bucks, and that could pay big dividends for the local economy.

County Council at its Tuesday, Dec. 5 meeting approved the creation of a new economic development loan program that will use a mix of public and private dollars totaling $4 million that businesses in targeted zones can tap to grow their operations and create much-needed jobs in the county.

The ExciteSussex Loan Program will be funded through two major sources, with Sussex County government contributing $750,000, and Discover Bank providing the balance of $3.25 million. Altogether, the $4 million in funds will be managed by the National Development Council and will be distributed in the form of low-interest, long-term loans to qualifying borrowers that are evaluated by the county and National Development Council.

“I think it’s the best example you can look at in terms of a public/private partnership,” said Sussex County Economic Development Director William F. Pfaff.

To qualify, businesses must have at least 10 full-time employees and been in operation for at least two years. Businesses can borrow up to $1 million under terms of the program.

Loans will be federally guaranteed, available for as little as 3.94 percent based on current rates and on terms ranging from 10 to 25 years.

William Pfaff

“This is an exciting opportunity for the county, its partners, and the business community,” said Mr. Pfaff. “By having this fund, businesses will have a new tool and critical financing link to help them stretch their cash flow while saving thousands of dollars with lower monthly payments. Our hope is this encourages them to create and retain more jobs, which in turn helps the local economy. It’s a win for everyone in Sussex County.”

The concept unveiled and approved Tuesday replaces an earlier county loan program that had been underutilized in recent years.

In 2004, the county set aside $1 million in the fiscal year 2004 budget for the creation of the Sussex County Economic Development Loan Program. From 2005 through 2012 five loans were awarded. In 2013, a grant component was added; two grants were awarded through that program.

“We were hoping that this program would be successful,” said Sussex County Finance Director Gina A. Jennings. “It has not paid off like we hoped.”

Funds set aside for the previous program will be used as the county’s $750,000 contribution to the new program, said Ms. Jennings.

County officials are hopeful the new incentive package will attract more interest from the business community and help spur growth in areas that have struggled in recent years because of corporate downsizing and the economic downtown, particularly central and western Sussex County.

As part of the program, the county has created three economic development zones – along the U.S. 13 corridor (the Nanticoke Zone), as well two along the U.S. 113 corridor from Ellendale southward (the Broadkill and Indian River zones).

“The goal here is creation and retention of permanent full-time jobs,” said Mr. Pfaff. “The goal is to drive economic development to the western side, and move east. That is our goal.”

Sussex County Council President Michael H. Vincent praised Mr. Pfaff and Ms. Jennings for their work on retooling the County’s incentive offerings, and extended his appreciation to Discover Bank for its significant role in the ExciteSussex program.

“This is one of the finest examples of the public and private sectors working together for the betterment of our community,” Mr. Vincent said. “Today, the county council and Discover Bank have made a significant investment in Sussex County’s economy, one that we hope will ensure a brighter future for our local business community.”

Once the program is finalized, officials plan to launch it by late January 2018, Mr. Pfaff said.

For more information on the loan program and other incentive packages available in Sussex County, visit the Sussex County Economic Development website at https://excitesussex.com/exceed/incentives/.

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