Town of Houlton bestows first microloan to UnContained Art

2 years ago

HOULTON, Maine — The town of Houlton has awarded its first-ever microloan to a new downtown business.

Members of  the Houlton Town Council approved a $5,000 loan for UnContained Art LLC, located at 82 Main St. during the board’s regular meeting on Dec. 13. UnContained Art is a community art center that hosts several events such as basket weaving and a guitar building course, and after-school programs for children to get in touch with their more artistic side.

“The objective of this program is to assist businesses located in the Downtown TIF District with working capital,” explained Nancy Ketch, economic and community development director for the town.

Funds for the microloan program originated from a Tax Increment Finance district that was created specifically for Houlton’s downtown. That fund also covers two other programs — a revolving loan fund for loans between $5,000 and $100,000, and a Downtown Facade Grant program.

Microloans are intended to be used to cover start-up costs and as working capital for businesses, Ketch said. The loans cannot be used to purchase property or improvements to buildings as that set of criteria falls under a different grant program through the town.

The  interest rate is prime at the time of closing and fixed for the life of the loan, with a maximum of five years.

To qualify, applicants must not have any outstanding property taxes, fees, judgments or liens to the town of Houlton, and have no outstanding code violations – unless the loan is to fix the violation. Loan recipients also agree to place a Downtown TIF sign at the construction site during the time of improvements and in their storefront window for 180 days after completion of the project.

Applicants must submit a letter of intent and project overview to the Community Development director to confirm compliance with the microloan program and local ordinances. An application package is then submitted to the Northern Maine Development Commission, which will review the application for completeness and process the loan application.

“Loan payments will go back into the fund, so that it can be perpetuated,” Ketch said. “The idea of the fund is to help businesses in the downtown to open, expand or improve their properties.”

For information on the microloan program, contact Ketch at 207-521-5938.