County Boost Fund awards $1.65 million in small business loans

Baltimore County announces $1.65 million in small business loans

An East Towson lacrosse equipment and products company is one of the latest Baltimore County small businesses to win funding from the county's Boost Fund, a two-year-old loan program.

"We know that small businesses have to be nimble, creative and dedicated to staying competitive," County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said at a Wednesday ceremony highlighting some of the 15 businesses that received $1.65 million in loans in the recent round of funding.

Loans ranged from $25,000 to $250,000, according to Fronda Cohen, a county spokeswoman.

At East Coast Dyes, the lacrosse equipment company founded five years ago by twins Michael and Greg Kenneally of Lutherville, the $150,000 loan it received in June carries a 2.5 percent interest rate, below the rate they could have received from a bank, Michael Kenneally said.

The loan helped pay for a variety of small items and to increase manufacturing, Michael Kenneally said.

One of the company's first products, a wax-based mesh, was invented by Greg Kenneally to use in his lacrosse stick after he struggled for years with nylon materials that expanded in the rain, making the material difficult to use.

East Coast Dyes, which has a scaled-down lacrosse field inside the industrial complex where its products are packaged and shipped, in 2014 signed a deal with Dick's Sporting Goods to sell its products, including mesh, balls, sticks and stick heads, in 500 stores around the country.

The privately held company, which declined to disclose annual revenues, has 25 full- and part-time employees.

The Boost program was launched in 2014 and has now distributed more than $3.1 million to 27 businesses employing 484 people, Cohen said.

Loans can be used for start-up funding, building improvements, equipment purchases, real-estate acquisition and working capital, among other items.

The county's Department of Economic and Workforce Development analyzes loan applications, which are then reviewed by a committee that includes lenders, businesspeople and small-business experts.

The committee is independent from the county — there are no county employees as members. Members review the same factors a traditional lender would consider, such as a business plan and credit ratings, Cohen said.

Once the committee makes a recommendation, it is up to the county's chief administrative officer to approve or deny the request. Out of 50 applicants, 15 were approved in this round of funding, Cohen said.

Six of the businesses are woman-owned, three are minority-owned and two are veteran-owned. One business was both woman-owned and minority-owned. The other three are owned by white men who are not veterans.

Specifics such as terms of the loan and interest rates are customized to each borrower, Cohen said. The maximum term is 20 years.

The county does require collateral for the loans, such as property or other assets. So far no business has defaulted on its loan, Cohen said.

Money for the fund comes from a share of casino proceeds the state distributes to Baltimore County.

Kamenetz, who toured and spoke at East Coast Dyes Wednesday, praised the program as a way to give businesses startup funding, as well as funding to grow and expand.

The flexibility of the loans is key to the program, Kamenetz said.

A business entity tied to Charles Village Pub is using the money to expand the restaurant in downtown Towson, where Kamenentz said roughly a dozen new restaurants have moved in recent years.

"Charles Village Pub has been a venerable institution in Downtown Towson for many years and has watched this growth, and rather than fear these businesses as competition they welcome the opportunity and use it and see it as an opportunity to expand their business," Kamenetz said.

Melony Wagner, one of the pub's owners, said she was able to use the money to fix up a building next to the pub.

Wagner established a company with her husband to purchase the next-door property. That company, Wagner 5, used a Boost loan of $200,000 to buy and renovate the building, replacing its facade. The pub will use an adjacent space for outdoor dining, in season.

The county loan was more affordable and easier than a traditional bank loan, she added.

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