GRANITE CITY — Alan Dunstan spoke with excitement about Madison County’s economic future at a presentation to a large group Feb. 18 during the Eggs & Issues Program at the Granite City Housing Authority.
“Madison County is healthy,” the Madison County Board chairman said. “I think it’s a great place to do business. I think with a team like Frank Miles (director of economic development) and Dave Stoecklin (director of Madison County employment and training), we’re putting more of an emphasis on economic development in Madison County. We want to push economic development. We’re setting up a team and we’re trying to come up and try to sell Madison County.”
Dunstan was one of five guest speakers in the hourlong program, What Madison County Can Do To Help Your Business. The others were Galen Gondolfi of Justine Petersen, Austin Korns of Madison County Community Development, Ron Epps of St. Louis Economic Development Partnership and Patrick McKeehan of the Illinois Metro East Small Business Development Center.
Dunstan said one of the reasons the county has been successful financially is because it fixed levees around the area.
“We’re 100 percent debt-free,” he said. “We’re probably in better financial shape than any other county in the state of Illinois. But because we live in Illinois, it’s hard to do business ... because when you go out in the public speaking circuit and you tell people you’re from Illinois, they will automatically bring up the budget issue.”
Dunstan said the future of the county is logistics: getting products into and out of the area.
“Right now, it’s a great time to be County Board chairman because we have a lot of good things going on Madison County,” he said.
Dunstan said he’s concerned about the Granite City Works steel mill, which has been temporarily idled since November and about 2,000 workers were being issued notices.
“Two thousand employees are going to be affected by that steel mill,” Dunstan said. “There are probably going to 5,000 others that will be affected. That’s a very large organization and business that we have to deal with. I think that is probably the No. 1 issue that we face here to Granite City.”
Gondolfi is the senior loan counselor and the chief of communications for Justine Petersen, a St. Louis-based company that assists low-wealth individuals and families to develop, maintain and increase financial assets.
“We’re high touch,” said Gondolfi, who has been with the company since 2003. “We personify every banking transaction. We’re authoring as much consultation as possible in partnerships with other service providers.”
One of those service providers is the Illinois Metro East Small Business Development Center at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, where McKeehan is the director.
“We are truly committed to the idea of trying to help the small business in our region,” McKeehan said. “We provide counseling services to help you get to be successful, whether you’re starting out, whether you’re in business for five years or 55 years, we’re here to help you get through that process. We tell our clients that we work with that you have to be part of the team. You, as a business individual owner, wear all of the hats of what you’re trying to do. You’re opening the doors, you’re sweeping the floor, you’re making the sales and you’re finishing up the books late at night. We advocate to you that you have to be a part of a team. You should have a good bank, someone that could help you with your finances.”
Epps is the assistant vice-president of business finance at the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership. He said the company has two types of loan programs – the Small Business Association 504 and the 7 (a) Loan Guarantee programs.
The SBA 504 program can be used for land and building acquisition, construction and furniture and fixtures.
“If you’re looking to purchase commercial real estate for your company and if your business needs to buy a building or if you’re currently leasing your building and you want to buy it, this program will help you do that as little as 10 percent down,” Epps said. “What this does is we partner with banks to make that happen.”
Epps said the 7 (a) loan program goes directly through the banks.
“The SBA guarantees a portion of that loan, so it reduces the risk of the bank to do that loan,” he said. “That way, a lot of times, a 7 (a) is used in cases where there is a collateral shortfall. So if you needed to borrow $100,000, but you don’t have $50,000 worth of collateral, normally under a normal conventional bank program, you have to get a collateral to cover the whole thing.”
Korns, economic development specialist of Madison County Community Development, said Madison County has four enterprise zones and Granite City is located in the Southwestern Madison County enterprise zone, which includes Madison and Venice.
“The Southwestern Madison County enterprise zone is home to many different benefits for businesses large and small right here,” Korns said.
Korns said one of the benefits is property tax abatement.
“We have four years of property tax abatement in Southwestern Madison County enterprise zone,” he said. “The way we figure the property tax abatement for a business is through an increment. We figure the base of your property taxes and then, any project you do, we see how property taxes and then we can discount that money out of your property taxes. So if you have a piece of land that has nothing on it and your property tax is $1,000, we’ll see that your property taxes go up to $20,000 if you put a big multi-story business on that piece of land. But for the next four years after that, you’re only going to pay $1,000.”
The program was presented by the Chamber of Commerce of Southwestern Madison County. Before the program, everyone who attended had breakfast.
The next Eggs & Issues program is scheduled for March 16. The program is titled “Social Media In Your Business,” and Kelly Meier and Mary Meyer are the guest speakers.