PARIS – A micro-loan program proposed for the Oxford Hills region would provide capital for small-business owners and entrepreneurs looking to create jobs and economic opportunity.

If the town of Paris agrees to act as the “point person” for the program, said Bob Shinners, vice president of Western Maine Finance, a $100,000 revolving loan fund would be set up to serve Paris, West Paris, Oxford, Norway, Otisfield, Waterford, Harrison and Hebron.

“We’re trying to create jobs and a more vital economic infrastructure,” Shinners said after explaining that the micro-loan program would be established with the help of a $100,000 federal Community Development Block Grant. It would be called a revolving loan fund because the program would continue as borrowers repay their loans.

Paris Town Manager Steve McAllister said the town would hold the grant money and oversee the loan disbursements. “We’ve done similar things before, and other towns have done these as well,” he said.

Western Maine Finance would handle the loan applications and request money from Paris as needed, McAllister said.

Shinners made it clear that no “free money” would be handed out through the program. “This is a loan we expect to be repaid,” he said.

According to a program overview from Shinners, applicants would have to prove they are striving to:

• Create or retain permanent jobs for low- to moderate-income residents.

• Diversify the economic base of the area.

• Retain and expand the existing commercial and industrial base, or

• Revitalize vacant or underutilized commercial or industrial properties.

“The average size of a loan is expected to be approximately $20,000,” states the document. There would be no minimum on the amount that could be requested, but the maximum limit would be $25,000.

Shinners said that if Paris agrees to assist with the loan program, it could be established within a month.

There will be no cost to Paris taxpayers, he said, because the grant will cover any outright expenses the town may incur.

The Paris Board of Selectmen will hold a public hearing on the program at 7 p.m. Monday, during its regular meeting.


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