NAPLES, Fla. - A brand new program through the state is lending out $8.5 million to small business owners to help them grow. The first one in the state to receive the money is a local business.
A store front on US 41 housed the Byte Shop in Naples for many years. Marcus Hayes has been wanting to expand his business to more than just computers, but it was tough.
"At the end of 2008 the banks, I don't care what kind of credit you have, what you do, it doesn't really matter, the banks stopped lending," Hayes tells me.
It wasn't until he found out about loans the State is giving out that he was able to really grow his small business.
"We've got 14 seats in the classroom. We're able to accommodate 14 students," Hayes says as he points out his new learning room. He's also added home theater equipment and other electronics to his new Mercato Plaza store.
The $250,000 low interest loan is part of the Economic Gardening program from the state. The loans are targeted for small businesses in fields like technology. For every $50,000 lent, the business must hire one person, but for Hayes it led to more.
"Once we had those employees we were able to pick up larger and larger jobs, which now because of the stimulus program, we're going to have to hire about 20 more people."
These new employees also led to picking up jobs outside the U.S. Hayes' company just landed a job in Haiti in which they will be helping rebuild the country.
There are other Collier businesses lining up to get a "byte" of the $8.5 million in loans. The fields include clean energy, health and life sciences and distribution, as well.
This program also gives free access for assistance from executives who've worked with fortune 500 companies.
If you want more information, you can call the Collier County Economic Development Council at (239) 263-8989. Or, find them online at http://www.enaplesflorida.com/.