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Cook County businesses get access to lower-interest loans
By Madhu Krishnamurthy | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 11/10/2009 12:03 AM

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Qualifying Cook County businesses may apply for nearly $196 million in facility bonds offered by the federal government to stimulate local economic development and revitalization projects, county officials said.

Cook County officials will share details of the program with Des Plaines area businesses at 10:30 a.m. today at Casa Royale Banquets, 783 Lee St. The meeting is open only to Des Plaines Chamber of Commerce & Industry members.

Businesses interested in the next public forum about this program should contact John Schneider at (312) 603-1009 or jschneider@cookcountygov.com. Details will be posted on the county's Web site as of Monday, Nov. 16.

The tax-exempt bonds are being made available nationally through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. They can be used by private companies in designated recovery zones to finance a variety of capital projects, including for the expansion of existing businesses, and creating and retaining jobs and sales and property tax revenues.

The recovery zone bonds work similar to industrial revenue bonds often issued by municipalities to stimulate growth. The risk is assumed by the companies and the investors buying the bonds, not the communities or the county.

"It's not a grant," said Schneider, deputy director for economic development in the Cook County department of planning and development. "We're not putting our full faith and credit behind it. We're basically a conduit. The company is doing something that helps with redevelopment and re-energizing jobs within the county. They do their financing with a bank."

By the county issuing bonds on behalf of private businesses, those companies can obtain longer-term loans from lenders at lower interest rates.

All of suburban Cook County has been designated a recovery as of July 2, making projects from that date eligible for these bonds. Collar counties participating in the federal program include DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will.

Schneider said Cook County will entertain applications only from creditworthy companies whose projects are larger than $2.5 million and will help areas hardest hit by the economic downturn.

Projects not eligible for bond funding through the program including rental housing, sun tan facilities, massage parlors, and gambling venues.

Applications will be taken Nov. 16 to Jan. 18, 2010. They will be reviewed by the Cook County Department of Planning & Development, the chief financial officer, and county clerk's, assessor's and state's attorney's offices.

"We're going to review the projects and make sure it's for the best," Schneider said.

Bonds for projects must be issued before the program ends Dec. 31, 2010.