NEWS RELEASE · 29th April 2010
M. of Community & Rural Devlp.
Small businesses in rural B.C. will benefit from amendments - introduced today under a Miscellaneous Statutes Amendment Act - that will enable the Forestry Community Business Loans Program to assist a broader range of rural small businesses, Community and Rural Development Minister Bill Bennett announced today.
"The priority is still forestry, but the reality is that a lot of this money is just sitting idle in bank accounts of the community-based development corporations delivering the program," said Bennett. "Where there is use for these funds in the forest sector, that's where the money will go. But where there are funds sitting idle, that money can go toward rural businesses that focus on things like clean and renewable energy, technology, aquaculture, manufacturing, tourism and exporting."
The program, now called the Community Business Loans Program, will continue to provide repayable, interest bearing loans of up to $150,000 to small and medium-sized businesses to support the diversification of rural economies, innovation in private sector enterprise, and the creation of new employment opportunities. Loan applications will continue to be assessed and approved by development corporations in accordance with the eligibility criteria set out in the amended contribution agreements.
The proposed legislation will also transfer responsibility of the program from the Ministry of Forests and Range to the Ministry of Community and Rural Development. The ministry will be responsible for enforcing the provisions of the contribution agreements as needed and will monitor the program to ensure monies are invested in accordance with the agreements. The development corporations delivering the program in their communities will be obliged to submit semi-annual financial program activity reports for review by the ministry.
The Forestry Community Business Loans Program was launched in 1996 with a Provincial contribution of $16.2 million, as well as contributions from development corporations. As of March 31, 2009, the value of the loan pools was $31 million. A total of 1,677 loans have been issued from these pools and more than 5,400 full-time jobs and 2,100 part-time jobs have been created and maintained under the existing program.