BENNINGTON -- Many entities exist to help business owners obtain financing, and program representatives gathered at Community College of Vermont on Monday to talk about what they can offer.

Peter Odierna, executive director of the Bennington County Industrial Corp., said his group does not provide direct financing.

"What we do is we serve as a facilitator to various different lending purposes, as well as the Vermont Economic Growth Incentive, or VEGI as it's called, the Vermont Training Program, the Vermont Economic Development Authority, et cetera," he said.

He said the VEGI program is the primary incentive the state offers for industrial development. It offers cash rewards to businesses that, based on projections, hire a certain amount of employees at a certain wage. There is no penalty if the business does not meet its projections, Odierna said.

"The thing you need to be aware of with the program is there is a wage threshold, so you've got to be creating jobs at around $14 an hour or higher, plus benefits," Odierna said. "That is a direct result of the program being tied directly to Vermont's minimum wage, so as Vermont's minimum wage has gone up over the years, the threshold in the VEGI program has gone up a little bit. Our opinion as a regional development corporation is that the wage threshold is too high, so we will be working with out legislators to see if we can incorporate what's called a 'living wage' which is incorporated in the Vermont Training Program, and that's around $12 an hour.


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This would allow the VEGI program to be more widely used, he said. The program also requires that the business being done would not happen, or not happen as well, without the incentive. Odierna said the program is most easily used by businesses based out of state, but his office can work to assist Vermont-based companies in getting involved.

"It's been widely used here in Bennington County. You're probably familiar with the industrial park along Shields Drive ... every company in that park went through the VEGI program," said Odierna.

Representing the town, Economic and Community Development Director Michael Harrington said Bennington itself offers a small-business revolving loan program, which it started using federal grants and keeps going using what is paid back into it. It can loan out up to $35,000, and businesses can use it for gap financing, meaning it can assist in getting a larger loan from a bank or other entity.

Valerie Morse, deputy district director for the U.S. Small Business Administration, said of the groups present at the round table, many do not offer direct financing but act as facilitators. Their criteria are similar as well, and any financier is going to look at the same things, credit history, collateral, management capacity, and market conditions.

More information can be found at the Small Business Administrations' website, www.sba.gov/vt.

It's also offering a number of free online loan clinics. "Attendees" view them via computer and listen via phone. There are planned for Sept. 9, Oct. 14, Nov. 18, and Dec. 9, twice each day from 9 to 10 a.m. and from noon to 1 p.m.

To view, go to www.connectmeeting.att.comand enter the meeting code, 8888449904 and the access code 7013799. To listen via phone, call 888-844-9904 and when prompted dial the access code, 7013799.

More information can be obtained from Morse at Valerie.Morse@sba.gov or by calling at 802-828-4422.

Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at kwhitcomb@benningtonbanner.com or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.