Valley Partners Intensifies Funding Efforts for Small Businesses

YOUNGSTOWN — The team at Valley Economic Development Partners (Valley Partners) worked harder than ever in 2020, processing and closing 642 loans and grants to help local small businesses struggling through the pandemic. That’s up from about 40 loans typically processed each year, says Executive Director Teresa Miller.

Valley Partners, formerly known as the Mahoning Valley Economic Development Corp., offers and facilitates a variety of loan programs to support small businesses. In 2020, the agency’s staff helped bring $34.9 million into the regional economy and create or retain 3,744 jobs last year.

“We are so proud of how hard we worked to get these funds into the hands of those businesses that need it most,” Miller says. “It is an incredible feeling.”

Miller’s greatest source of pride in 2020, she says, is “our exceptional staff through the increase in workload due to the pandemic”

In her first year as executive director, Miller was able to keep revenues up while building new and stronger relationships with partner organizations. She credits Terrence Louk, director of SBA Lending, for working diligently to support the increase in SBA activity.

“This is the best year in SBA 504 lending for Valley Partners since the recession in 2008,” Miller says. “Terry went above and beyond to help any customers that called with questions about all of the new SBA products offered such as the PPP and EIDL programs.”

She also credits Mario Nero, director of economic development, for navigating the opportunities provided to Valley Partners from the Economic Development Administration and the local counties. “He tirelessly worked with our smaller business customers to help them get through the pandemic with their current loans or with new loan funds that were made available,” Miller says.

“We have four additional support staff that also worked diligently to help get this overwhelming number of loans/grants completed in 2020. They are Greg Lutz, financial specialist; Wendy Walters, servicing director; Julie Swauger, office manager; and our newest addition in 2020, Maureen Stenglein, portfolio manager.”

Valley Partners has big plans to further help boost the regional economy in 2021, according to Miller.

As a newly certified community development financial institution, Valley Partners will intensify efforts to help underserved communities in the region, and is eligible to apply for grants offered by the U.S. Department of Treasury’s CDFI fund.

“We hope to secure additional funds to help create jobs and to support entrepreneurs in starting or expanding their own business,” Miller says.

Valley Partners was created in 1978 as a nonprofit organization. It is a certified development corporation approved by the SBA to administer its loan programs.

“While in the past, we managed two industrial parks and two railways, our focus moving forward is the strength and growth of our economy through small business lending,” Miller says.