ODOD Adds Funding Sources for Business

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – The state of Ohio soon will roll out new financial tools to assist minority-owned and women-owned businesses.

Lydia Mihalik, director of the Ohio Department of Development, and representatives of the department’s Minority Business Development Division, outlined assistance programs Sept. 28. About 60 people attended the meeting, which was described as a regional listening tour. It was held at Concept Studios in downtown Youngstown.

“We have a lot of new capital options to help these businesses either grow or expand or start. And we want to make sure that these offerings are known,” Mihalik said.

ODOD recently introduced two initiatives to help state-certified minority-owned and women-owned businesses.

The Ohio Micro-Loan Program offers loans from $10,000 to $45,000 at zero percent interest to state certified minority business enterprises and women-owned business enterprises – known as MBEs and WBEs, respectively. The funds can be used for refinancing debt, working capital and fixed assets, said Monica Womack, chief of the minority business development division.

State-certified woman-owned businesses are eligible to take loans out for $45,000 to $500,000 at 1.5% interest,  or 3% interest for uncertified businesses, she continued. Other options available to disadvantaged entrepreneurs though the division include the Minority Direct Loan Program and Women Business Bonding Program.

“If you want to grow, you need other people’s money,” said Shaundretta Boykins, business development and entrepreneurship manager in the minority business division. “That is the key to wealth creation that you can pass down.”

The state was awarded $182 million in federal funds to help minority-owned, women-owned and veteran-owned businesses. The funds will be made available through the new Small Business Credit Initiative, which will launch in 90 to 120 days, Boykins said.

One change ODOD made that has had a major effect was merging its equal opportunity division with the minority business division. This created a “one-stop shop for minority and underserved businesses” to earn state certifications, Mihalik said.

The Youngstown MBAC office helped 31 businesses with WBE certifications, 32 with MBEs, 41 as Encouraging Diversity, Growth and Equity – or EDGE – Program businesses, and 12 as veteran-friendly business enterprises, Mihalik said.

“We’ve been able to reduce the number of required documents in the certification process from 26 to 13. That’s huge when we’re thinking of how businesses are trying to still work their business as well as become certified,” Womack said.

The state is working on streamlining its process so all of the certifications can be done on Ohio’s Business Gateway by the end of the year.

“That way, you’ll be able to not only apply for one or all of the certifications at one time. But you’ll also be able to upload your documents into a secure system so that you’re not going to have to worry about piecemealing or having to make multiple email transactions,” Womack said.

Additionally, Mihalik noted that Senate Bill 105, which Gov. Mike DeWine recently signed, simplified the certification process for minority-owned, women-owned and veteran-owned businesses.

All of that is important because the state secured “the biggest economic development project in Ohio’s history,” she said, referring to Intel’s $20 billion semiconductor manufacturing complex, which is anticipated to have “ripple effects” throughout the state.

“We are encouraging Intel to honor the commitments that it has made regarding jobs and the company has promised that diversity and inclusion will be a priority, not only in its hiring practices, but also in its selection of vendors and suppliers,” Mihalik said. “And we’ve already assisted the company in those efforts by providing lists of Ohio-certified minority-owned, women-owned and veteran-owned businesses.”

YBI and Youngstown officials also are working with Amazon to provide certified business owners with a platform to sell their products “not just locally, but nationally and globally,” said Stephanie Gilchrist, director of the Youngstown MBAC.

Kimberly Johnson, owner of Aisle One Mobile market in Youngstown, which catered the event, said she qualifies for all three certification programs mentioned and she is in the process of completing the process. She said she wants to use one of the loan programs to refinance an existing loan and “help me be successful to moving toward making a profit.’

Also among those attending was Keland Logan, owner of Emerald City Construction Co. LLC, Youngstown. Earlier this year, YBI helped Emerald City with getting MBE certification. He is listed with Intel as a construction provider and the project represents “a lot of promise” for companies like his.

Logan praised Mihalik and her colleagues for “being proactive as far as breaking down barriers and creating opportunities for businesses like ours.”

As a general contractor, Emerald City has to “foot the bill” for its projects. Barriers to capital are “unfortunately inherent in our community,” he said.

Pictured at top: Linda Mihalik, director of the Ohio Department of Development, outlines new options for business loans.