Local First Arizona Foundation Launches Loan Fund for Local Businesses in Graham County in Partnership with Freeport-McMoRan

Local First Arizona Foundation is building opportunity for local businesses in Graham County in partnership with Freeport-McMoRan through the new Graham County Micro-Loan Program. This new program will offer loans in smaller amounts to local businesses in the Graham County area to help them stay competitive in a continuously changing economy. 

Capital is like oxygen for small businesses.
— Kimber Lanning, Executive Director, Local First Arizona Foundation

“Capital is like oxygen for small businesses, and small businesses in rural communities have recently had a challenging time getting the capital they need to grow and expand their businesses,” said Kimber Lanning, Executive Director of Local First Arizona Foundation. “We identified a gap in the market because we found that larger banks are increasingly shying away from smaller loan amounts because that’s not what is best for their bottom line.” 

One person who has been impacted by this trend is Joe Goodman, a restaurant owner in Pima and also Community Development Director for Graham County. “We’ve had multiple incidents where getting a small loan was nearly impossible,” said Goodman. “One was when we wanted to convert a storage building into a walk-in fridge and freezer and upgrade our front counter space. We finally ended up going through an equipment leasing company, but we had to pay 12% interest on a $25,000 loan with no ability to pay off early. Due to lack of options, we were forced to lock into a high interest rate.”

Lanning says she’s heard stories like Joe’s all over Graham County. “The difficulty that local businesses and organizations face in accessing capital to grow and expand is not only incredibly frustrating but it is stunting our statewide economic growth. We’re thankful to have Freeport-McMoRan stepping in with us to help offer local businesses in Graham County the resources that they need to succeed and build prosperity in their communities.”

 Stopping by one of the  many innovative businesses  on our 2017 Rural Policy Forum Economic Development Tour in Safford/Thatcher. 

Stopping by one of the many innovative businesses on our 2017 Rural Policy Forum Economic Development Tour in Safford/Thatcher. 

According to Freeport-McMoRan Safford General Manager Jeff Monteith, “Access to capital is a pinch point for small businesses. Accordingly, Local First’s Micro Loan Program proposal was very well-received by our grants committee. They determined it to be strongly aligned with a goal to achieve measurable results to Increase Business Development, Attraction and Retention – a key strategy for Economic Diversification in Graham County.

Businesses and startups in all industries located in Graham County will be able to apply for loans from the Graham County Micro-Loan Program. The loan fund will be managed by the Community Investment Corporation, and loan applications will be reviewed by a steering committee of local community members, including:

  • Ashley Arrellin, Washington Federal Bank
  • Armando Carrillo, National Bank of Arizona
  • Casey Clayton, Freeport-McMoRan Safford Operations
  • Devin Gillespie, One AZ Credit Union
  • Vaughn Grant, Country Financial

Potential loan applicants can visit https://www.localfirstazfoundation.org/az-microloans to find and submit the loan application to be considered. Loan applications should be submitted to Brian Quijada at brian@cictucson.com or fax 520-257-2647. 

In tandem, the Graham County Leadership Cohort will host a Shark Tank event for entrepreneurs on November 1 at the Safford Center for the Arts with up to $20,000 in prizes available to winning participants. For more information on the Shark Tank event, please visit: facebook.com/SharkTankGrahamCounty.

The Graham County Micro-Loan Program is part of Local First Arizona Foundation’s portfolio of rural economic and community development programming in conjunction with the Arizona Rural Development Council. Other initiatives include the Arizona Rural Policy Forum, WeekendZona, Copper Corridor Supplier Source, Solutions For Rural Development Webinars, and more. More information on Local First Arizona Foundation’s rural programming is available at https://www.localfirstazfoundation.org/growing-arizonas-small-town-economies/