The U.S. Department of the Treasury has awarded an $18.2 million grant to the Arizona Commerce Authority, which President and CEO Don Cardon said the authority plans to use as the foundation of a revolving loan fund for small businesses.
Cardon said he applied for the grant several months ago, and learned shortly before today’s Commerce Authority board meeting that it had been approved. He also announced a separate $560,000 grant to assist small businesses that manufacture goods for export.
Cardon said he wanted to incorporate the federal grant into a program he calls the Arizona Growth Fund, a proposed “capital collaborative” that would use the collective equity of the state, private sector businesses and banks to help small businesses get loans. The fund would focus on small businesses with six to 10 employees that are looking to expand.
He said he would also like to coordinate the programs with the U.S. Small Business Administration’s loan program.
“The Arizona Growth Fund would look to institutional bank consortiums, asking Wells Fargo and Chase and Bank of America and others to come together and create some synergy about some of the commercial dollars they’re already trying to place out, and work together with the state and our business community on how we put those out,” Cardon said.
Cardon said he was thrilled to be able provide nearly $19 million in assistance to small businesses that are often in need of working capital. The Commerce Authority had already made plans for program that would allow businesses to issue millions in tax exempt bonds, backed by the federal government and local industrial development authorities, for infrastructure projects.
He also elaborated on several other Commerce Authority plans to promote Arizona and attract new businesses to the state. Cardon said the authority plans to open trade offices in California, China and other foreign countries, and begin cooperative efforts with chambers of commerce, the Greater Phoenix Economic Council and other economic development organizations.
The Commerce Authority will hire third-party researchers to identify companies in other states and countries that may be looking to relocate.
Other business-attraction efforts won’t be nearly as targeted. Another ambitious initiative Cardon unveiled at the meeting was a 10-year, $20 million marketing campaign he hopes to begin in 2012.
“We have to take the business message to the marketplace. We have to take it in a way that’s strategic,” Cardon said.