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Expansion state Featured

11:21am EDT January 24, 2005
Expanding your business means creating new opportunities, but it also means taking risks.

Part of that risk is the financing involved with expanding your facility or buying new equipment. Will the increased business be enough to cover the extra costs?

To help mitigate some of the risk, the Ohio Department of Development has several programs available to help businesses expand to meet new opportunities and create jobs.

For example, Strongsville-based Demag Plastics Group is completing a $2 million expansion and renovation project at its headquarters building. The project is made possible in part by $650,000 in grants the company received from the state.

The project includes work on a new main entrance, the creation of a machine demonstration area, expanded customer training and sales conference facilities, and construction of a new IT equipment room and renovated IT office space.

Overall, the project is expected to create 25 new jobs and retain 350, according to state officials.

Job creation and retention are key to getting assistance from the Ohio Department of Development.

"We have a lot of programs, and the requirements for each vary," says Maria Smith, spokesperson for the department. "The majority of them have some sort of minimum job creation requirement. If a company is looking at a project, we have business reps that come in who have expertise and really know the programs. They work with the companies to get to know what their needs are so they can create that perfect fit."

As with any other loan process, be prepared to provide detailed financial data to qualify.

"There is a lot of interaction between the department and the company before the project will be qualified to get funding," says Smith. "Be as prepared as you can be with as much information as possible, and have it available when you meet with the representative from the department. Like when you go for a home loan, you have to have your credit data in order and have the finances to back that up. It's the same type of thing when you are trying to get assistance through the state."

Once you meet the criteria, state officials will help you navigate the remaining paperwork and accompany you to the various city board and council meetings to help you get approval.

"There will be someone available to you every step of the way," says Smith.

If you think you might qualify for state assistance, the place to start is the regional department of development office. It can answer your questions or set up a meeting to see what programs might meet your needs.

Programs include:

* Ohio Enterprise Bond Fund. Provides funding for land and building acquisition, construction, expansion or renovation, and equipment purchases for commercial or industrial projects of between $1.5 million and $10 million. The benefits of the program are a long-term, fixed rate for up to 90 percent of total project costs. The company must show repayment and management capabilities and be able to document job creation or retention.

* Ohio Qualified Small-Issue Bond Program. Provides low-interest financing for small manufacturing facilities locating or expanding in Ohio that have or can obtain allocations of volume cap. Qualified small-issue bonds can finance up to 100 percent of the cost of land, buildings and equipment in new construction, expansion or rehabilitation of industrial facilities. Bonds are issued at interest rates historically between 3/4 and 3 percent below prime lending rates. How to reach: Ohio Department of Development, (216) 787-3240

Bank on it

Online banking continues its rapid expansion, according to a report by FiSite Research.

A broad sample of banks for the third quarter of 2004 showed rapid growth in service delivery, and the online channel is emerging as a source of sales, with banks reporting strong e-commerce production.

Bank of America has the largest online registered user base, with 11.8 million active online banking customers. This growth includes the addition of Fleet's online banking customers; the company merged with Bank of America last April. The bank's active online banking customers represent a penetration of more than 48 percent of its active customers.

According to the survey:

* National City reported 1 million online banking customers.

* Key Bank reported 900,000.

* Huntington reported 200,000 online customers.

Customers are increasingly turning to the Internet to select and purchase bank products and services.

FiSite predicts that longer online tenure, greater broadband adoption, more aggressive communication and an expanded menu of online services will continue to drive strong online banking adoption for the rest of the year. Online banking growth is projected at 25 percent to 30 percent for 2005.