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Minneapolis marks 1,000th low-interest loan to small business

A revolving, low-interest loan program by the city of Minneapolis recently marked its 1,000th loan to a small business in the city.

City officials celebrated the milestone last week with an event at the Blackbird Cafe. The restaurant was the recipient of the 1,000th loan.

"These are the right investments for government to make--and now more than ever, this is the right time to do it," said Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak.

The investments consist of 10-year, 2-percent interest rate loans, which must be matched at least dollar-for-dollar by loans from private lenders. "It's definitely a way to encourage banks to not turn off the spigot, to keep the funds flowing," says Bob Lind, the city's director of business finance.

Since the program started in 1988, it's made 1,000 loans totaling $28 million, and leveraged another $87 million in private investment. The city estimates the program has helped create more than 2,000 jobs and retain another 9,300. The average loan size is $25,000, and more than 97 percent have been fully repaid.

The Blackbird Cafe used a $75,000 loan from the program to relocate after a Feb. 18 fire destroyed its previous home at W. 50th St. and Bryant Ave. S. Owners Gail Mollner and Chris Stevens hosted last week's event at their new location at 3800 Nicollet Ave.

"The whole idea was to get that investment and make sure those commercial corners and commercial nodes continue to  thrive, continue to look good, continue to be occupied," says Lind.

In addition to the mayor, speakers included Robert Stephens, founder of the Geek Squad, which received financing through the program in 1998.

Source: Bob Lind, City of Minneapolis
Writer: Dan Haugen
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