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May 14, 2024

Microloan program aims to help small businesses in northern Maine

The Northern Maine Development Commission was awarded $1.25 million in federal funds to provide loans to microentrepreneurs and small businesses in Aroostook, northern Penobscot, Piscataquis, and Washington counties.

The money comes from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development program.

portrait photo of women with long red hair
Courtesy / USDA
Rhiannon Hampson, Maine director for USDA Rural Development

“At Rural Development, we know that small, rural businesses have unique financing needs,” said Rhiannon Hampson, Rural Development’s Maine director. "Partnerships such as this leverage USDA’s federal capital to stimulate business creation and growth right here in Maine.”

Based in Caribou, the commission has three advisors and three loan officers to work with local businesses, as well as experts in planning and economic development. The organization provides financing and counseling for small businesses, technical assistance to municipalities, and supports community economic development in the region.

“We foster economic growth and resilience in communities often overlooked by traditional financing channels,” said Bob Clark, the commission’s executive director.

“These financial resources do more than just support businesses, they nurture the dreams and livelihoods of rural communities, empowering them to thrive and sustain themselves.”

The commission is a community development financial institution — mission-driven, community-based financial institutions that often make investments that make a positive social and economic impact. Their financial products and services are targeted at people and communities underserved by conventional financial institutions, particularly in low-income communities.

Their work directly impacts small businesses that may struggle to secure financing through traditional lenders. The commission helps fill the gap by offering low-interest loans utilizing state and federal funding. It has a track record of administering funds from several USDA Rural Development programs.

Two types of loans

In this latest round of funding, the commission will receive two types of USDA loans:

  • A $500,000 Rural Microentrepreneurial Assistance Program loan to support the development and ongoing success of microentrepreneurs and microenterprises. The commission has previously deployed RMAP funds with loans of up to $50,000 to support area businesses. 
  • An Intermediary Relending Program loan for $750,000 to capitalize a revolving loan fund. The commission’s fund provides loans of up to $375,000 to promote community development, establish new businesses, and create or retain employment opportunities.  
2 people standing with lineup of ATVs
Courtesy / USDA Rural Development
Wilde Recreation’s Marci Wilde and Brandon McDonald

Marcy Wilde, founder of Wilde Recreation LLC, has worked with the commission to obtain a RMAP loan to purchase new equipment for her business. 

Established in 2021, Wilde Recreation is an outdoor equipment  rental and lodging company in the Aroostook County town of Cross Lake. 

The Northern Maine Development Commission "has been a lender that felt like a partner rather than going to a big bank and feeling like a number,” said Wilde.

She said the process was "very fast and couldn't have been easier."

“The loan officer at NMDC facilitated everything," she said, adding that the loan "helped me expand the business and to retain and add employees. It’s exciting to be helping to boost tourism in our rural area.”

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