CULLOWHEE Western North Carolina business owners who experienced losses during last fall's hurricanes have been getting some much-needed help recently through the Small Business and Technology Development Center office based in Western Carolina University's College of Business.

So far, the SBTDC staff working out of the Cullowhee office and an Asheville satellite office has handed out $2.6 million in loans to a total of 49 businesses as part of an economic recovery program set up by Gov. Mike Easley. Funded by the Hurricane Recovery Act of 2005, the Business Assistance Program provides $10 million to supply low-interest loans to eligible businesses for losses not covered by insurance or federal disaster relief, said Wendy Cagle, regional director for the SBTDC.

The state fund also can be used to rebate a portion of the interest borrowers will pay on U.S. Small Business Administration disaster loans, Cagle said. To date, 22 rebates have been given out totaling $220,000.

The SBTDC, which also maintains 15 other offices at universities across the state, is an inter-institutional program of the University of North Carolina system and is the state's primary business assistance program. The SBTDC is partnering with the state Department of Commerce in carrying out the hurricane recovery program.

The local SBTDC staff has carried out two loan disbursements so far, handing out loans to businesses in Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson and McDowell counties, Cagle said. The loans can be used to cover the cost of physical damage, economic injury and debt consolidation related to the September floods. So far, the average loan has totaled $53,000.

The deadline for applying for an economic injury federal loan is June 30. The deadline for applying for a state loan is July 30. For more information about the state loan program, visit www.sbtdc.org/disaster on the Web or call the Cullowhee office at (828) 227-3504 or the Asheville office at (828) 251-6025.

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Last modified: Wednesday, May 11, 2005
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