SAFFORD — In a July 22, 2019, City Council work session, Safford Mayor Jason Kouts asked city staff to consider ways to incentivize local business development.
Through micro-loans and a recently developed small business support program, the city is working to do just that.
Applicants to the small business support program, which the city funds, may receive up to $10,000 in cash or fee waivers. They may choose from one or more of the following: Citywide facade program; first year business license fee waiver for new business, including businesses that relocate to Safford; building permit fee waiver; utility deposit and hookup fee waiver; assistance with zoning/building code requirements; and assistance with onsite or offsite infrastructure improvements.
Applicants’ projects must be located within the city of Safford and limited to capital improvements. Projects that create new jobs will be given preference. Applicants must fund at least half of project costs, and submissions must be complete regarding all supporting materials, including drawings and permit or fee applications.
Recipients of fee and permit waivers, facade grant program awards, deposit and hookup fee waivers, and infrastructure assistance awards will initially pay those costs, then be reimbursed upon project completion.
Applications for the small business support program, and program guidelines, can be found on the City of Safford website at http://www.cityofsafford.us/civicalerts.aspx?AID=327. Applications may also be picked up at the city's Planning and Community Development Department, 808 S. 8th Ave.
The micro-loan program, which counts the Local First Arizona Foundation, Freeport-McMoRan, the Community Investment Corporation and the Graham & Greenlee County Leadership Cohort as participants, provides loans up to $25,000 to successful applicants. Local First Arizona Foundation has also partnered with Eastern Arizona College’s Small Business Development Center to review and coach applicants.
One hurdle small businesses face is obtaining smaller loan amounts from banks, and the micro-loan program offers a solution. “It’s very hard for small businesses to get loans, particularly small amount loans,” said Safford Planning and Community Development Director Susan Anderson. “This is kind of to fill in a gap that you have with people being able to get financing for projects they want to do.”
Assistant City Manager John Cassella said five loans were currently active, none of the borrowers had missed a payment and some had added jobs. “So far it’s been successful,” he said.
Micro-loan applications are available at www.azmicroloans.com.
“This is a fairly unique program, based on my experience, at the local level,” Cassella said. “I think it’s relatively creative, and it’s a level that I think most small businesses can use and access.”
Note: This article was updated Feb. 10, 2020 to add that small business support program applications are now available on the City of Safford website.