Tuesday August 7, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- Two North Street employers are the first to benefit from Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi's program to boost economic growth within the city's small business community.

Bianchi announced on Monday that Mad Macs Inc. and Quest Connect have received $45,000 and $25,000, respectively, from the newly created Small Business Fund.

The $500,000 fund provides grants and loans for technical assistance, working capital and large-scale investments to eligible businesses that have been open for at least three years. The mayor and City Council established the fund using part of the $6.1 million remaining in the Pittsfield Economic Development Fund, previously called the GE Economic Development Fund.

Mad Macs received $20,000 for technical assistance and $25,000 in working capital, and Quest Connect a $10,000 technical assistance loan and $15,000 for capital investment.

The infusion of cash is intended to help small firms seeking to expand their operations and payroll, according to the mayor.

"Both Mad Macs and Quest Connect are positioned to grow and to add new employees," Bianchi said in a statement. "At a time when small businesses often fail to qualify for funding from traditional institutions, I am delighted that the city can help them achieve their goals."

The inaugural awards from the Small Business Fund are forgivable loans the two firms won't have to pay back if they each create at least one new job with benefits.


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Owners of the two small business say they are looking to double their payroll.

Mad Macs, the county's only authorized Apple Com puter sales and service business, employs four people, including co-owners Scott Kirchner and Daryl Corbett.

"What we need to do immediately is hire two people and possibly two more down the road," said Kirchner. "[On Monday], we already hired one individual who will be full time in three months."

Kirchner said the working capital loan will allow Mad Macs to increase its offering of Apple products.

Meanwhile, Jeff van Lingen of Quest Connect wants to go from being self-employed to hiring an administrative assistant and salesperson in the coming weeks and months. The one-man operation provides technology training to 150 businesses and individuals in the Berkshires and beyond.

"I have a lot of ideas to put forward, but I need to hire key personnel," said van Lingen, who began Quest Connect four years ago.

Pittsfield has approximately 1,400 businesses with fewer than 50 employees. Bianchi has said he expects the Small Business Fund to initially help 10 to 15 employers.

The city's community development office administers the Small Business Fund and assists businesses with the application process.

Through the mayor's office, funding requests are forwarded to the Pittsfield Economic Revitalization Corp. for review and a recommendation back to the mayor for final approval. Approval by two-thirds of the 11-member PERC board is required to OK an application.

PERC is a 30-year-old, federally funded agency that provides loans to qualified businesses intent on retaining or adding jobs for low- and moderate-income individuals and families.

If PERC rejects a funding request, the mayor has the option to bring it to the City Council for a vote requiring support from at least eight councilors to approve the application.

To reach Dick Lindsay:
rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6233.