A program that helps small businesses in Baltimore County to get loans will expand, with five new banks pledging to the fund, county officials announced Wednesday.

With the new pledges, the Baltimore County Small Business Loan Partnership's fund will grow to $12.35 million, up from about $10 million, said Fronda Cohen, spokeswoman for the county's Economic Development Department.

Businesses that are located in Baltimore County or planning to move there can get real estate and equipment loans from the program, which is a partnership between the private lenders and the county's Economic Development Department.

Eligible businesses must employ fewer than 100 people when they apply. The maximum loan amount is $500,000 or 40 percent of the applicant's project, whichever is less.

Loans from the fund require only 10 percent equity, rather than the typical 20 percent. The program also helps business owners get favorable terms on the loans.

"These loans are critical to providing small businesses with capital to invest in people, equipment or buildings," County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said in a statement.

The lenders that just joined the program are: CFG Community Bank, Sandy Spring Bank, Peoples Bank, Northwest Savings Bank and TD Bank. That brings the number of participating banks to 20.

The fund can help business owners obtain loans that they otherwise wouldn't be able to, said Patrick Shurney, a senior vice president and Chesapeake region market leader at Sandy Spring.

"There's not much access to capital out there right now, so small businesses are really struggling," he said.

The program started in 1996. For more information about the loans, call 410-887-8000.

alisonk@baltsun.com

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