Prince George’s $50 million fund taking applications from small businesses


Prince George's County Executive Baker talks about the new $50 million fund for economic development loans (Jeffrey MacMillan/Capital Business)

Five banks in the past 24 months have turned down Aries Enterprises for a loan to expand the document destruction and recycling company’s operations.

The three-year-old business in Upper Marlboro has a steady 50 clients, but to compete for government contracts it needs financing to “secure overhead and increase cash flow,” Chief Operating Officer Ylrico Alexander said.

Banks, however, keeping giving him the same lines: “They say, ‘We’d like to see your business in operation for a couple more years.’ Or ‘Maybe, if you had A-1 credit.’ But we have contracts, have the potential to get more and present that to them in our business plan. Yet we get the same answers.”

Aries Enterprises now plans to turn to the county, and seek financing through the new $50 million Economic Development Incentive Fund in Prince George’s County.

Alexander was among some 50 attendees on hand for an information session hosted last Wednesday by County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt. The event kicked off the rollout of the program, for which applications were made available on March 1.

Baker introduced the fund, bankrolled by a one-time $116 million surplus, to attract jobs and new revenue to the county. Prince George’s had the same number of jobs in 2011 that it did in 2000, despite gaining 63,000 residents over that time, according to the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

“The target is to grow our commercial tax base,” Baker said at the event. “We have tried our best to make this as business friendly as possible, to make it so it operates and turns on a dime.”

Established companies in Prince George’s can borrow money from the fund for a range of business expenses such as acquiring equipment, purchasing property or renovating a building. Loans must be collateralized with cash or the borrower’s assets, and repaid within 10 years.

Companies must submit an application fee equal to 1 percent of the requested loan amount. Application requirements, including credit report and cash flow projections, are consistent with those of private sector lenders.

But unlike at a traditional bank, projects will be evaluated “based on its merits, not on the historical performance of the company exclusively,” said Shelley Gross-Wade, chief executive of Prince George’s Financial Services Corp., which, along with the county’s Economic Development Corp., will administer the program.

Patrick Shanahan, owner of Artistic Landscaping in Lanham, would like to tap the fund to purchase more equipment and grow his staff of 12. He said the company has experienced consistent demand for residential and commercial lawn care since opening 10 years ago. But the bank said the company’s credit was not strong enough for it to receive a $100,000 loan.

While a majority of the fund will be allocated to small businesses, the county can use it for grants to subsidize deals for federal agency leases and the relocation of large corporations.

Baker drummed up new support within the county council, after Prince George’s failed to attract the Department of Health and Human Services last August. To assuage concerns over the administration of the fund, he established an independent oversight committee and gave the council power to review grants of $250,000 or more.

Danielle Douglas covers the banking industry for The Washington Post.
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