Extension for SBA loans requested | News, Sports, Jobs


Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette
Houghton County Administrator Ben Larson discusses the impact of this year’s winter on local businesses during Tuesday’s Houghton County board meeting.

HOUGHTON — Houghton County has gone through the same abnormal winter as other counties in Michigan. Now, the county is asking for the same assistance recently extended to some of them.

Tuesday, the county board approved a resolution calling for Small Business administration economic disaster loans to be extended to Houghton, Baraga and Keweenaw counties. Last week, the state announced the grants would be made available to 42 counties in the state, including Ontonagon County.

Those counties were part of pre-existing drought declarations through the U.S. Department of agriculture, which were then extended to cover the lack of snow, according to a release put out last week announcing the loans.

However, the needs are as pressing for businesses in Houghton County, county officials said. One example of the impact even showed up in the state’s press release (which the board’s resolution noted): the cancellation of the CopperDog 150, which normally spans Houghton and Keweenaw counties.

“They put 42 counties and one of them is not Houghton, one of them is not Keweenaw, one of them is not Baraga,” said Administrator Ben Larson. “That’s criminal, in my opinion.”

Under the program, individual businesses are eligible for loans of up to $2 million. The 30-year loans do not require any payback for a year, nor would they accrue any interest over that time. After that, interest rates would top out at 4%.

After Monday’s announcement, Larson had visited every business in downtown Houghton to survey them about how the lack of snow had affected them, and made calls to businesses from Calumet Township to Twin Lakes. Uniformly, the businesses need help, he said.

“If you think that our Houghton County businesses aren’t hurting, they’ve had the worst winter on record,” he said. “So obviously when we have 20 weeks of snowmobiling, it’s a different earning potential than when we have two.”

State Rep. Greg Markkanen had contacted Larson as soon as the news broke, Larson said. Larson then followed up the next day with other legislators and state and federal agencies.

Early indications were promising, particularly for Houghton County, Larson said.

“We’re lucky Ontonagon got shaded in,” he said. “And they say since we share a common line with them, it’s very easy for them to shade in us if they make that choice.”

Markkanen said Tuesday he is still waiting to hear from some of the agencies involved. He is hoping to get word by the end of the week.

“Everything’s on the table still,” he said. “I know how many people are worried. There’s a lot of people up there that are hurting. We’re doing our best.”



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