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Businesses have questions about light rail loans

A forgivable loan program for businesses affected by light rail construction along University Avenue might not be adequate, some of the business owners said Thursday.

Finance & Commerce said an information meeting about the loan program brought many questions, with some owners worried about the $20,000 loan limit and terms of the forgiveness.

The deal for owners, says F&C:

  • To qualify for the potentially forgivable loans, a business has to be an independent, for-profit retail-oriented entity with less than $2 million a year in gross income with four or fewer locations (if a business has four locations and only one is on the corridor, that one will be considered).
  • The businesses have to agree to stay on the corridor for five years, provide a personal guarantee and prove their “creditworthiness.”
  • And, of course, the business has to be experiencing revenue losses that can be attributed to the construction of the light rail line, a $957 million project that will connect the downtowns of St. Paul and Minneapolis when it opens in 2014.

Some businesses told the paper about problems they’re seeing with construction:

Sola Gbadebo of Roni’s Beauty Supply and Hair Salon: “We’re getting hit real hard. We need people to walk in, but customers are having a hard time finding us. And if they aren’t walking in, we aren’t making a dime.”

Dao Hoang, manager of the Tracks Bar and Grill in the Days Inn, didn’t see much business during a recent classic car show: “Normally, people would pack the bar, but we hardly had anyone this year.”

Troy DeCorsey, owner of the Love Doctor, an adult retail shop, said at the meeting that a 64 percent decline in business since construction started has forced him to lay off four employees. “I don’t understand how $20,000 is really going to help any business.”

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