What do a pet resort, a dance studio, a fish processing company, a solar panel installer and a neighborhood pizzeria have in common?
Other than sounding like the start of a bad joke, they are among the hundreds of successful South Coast businesses that were aided in their growth and development with timely assistance and financing from the SouthEastern Economic Development Corporation, also known as SEED Corp.
The story of SEED’s rise is as remarkable as those of any of the businesses it has assisted. It’s hard to imagine a time when interest rates for commercials loans were in double digits and credit standards were excessively tough, but that’s exactly the situation southeastern Massachusetts and the rest of the nation were in in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.
Regional economic summits at the time produced the usual litany of concerns from business that would sound familiar even in 2017 – the need for a trained workforce, workers’ compensation complaints, and transportation woes.
But unlike today, the number-one complaint from the business community at that time was the cost and availability of financing for growth and expansion. Interest rates were too high, banks were too cautious, and our economy was stagnating.
Enter Maria Gooch-Smith. As an economic development planner at Southeastern Regional Planning & Economic Development District (SRPEDD), Maria was seeing these issues up close, and was frustrated over her helplessness to fix them. She swung into action, created SEED Corp. as a nonprofit corporation, and applied for and received certification as a certified development company from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) in 1982.
Fast-forwarding to 2017, SEED today is a bona fide financial juggernaut. In those intervening thirty-five years, SEED has made over 2,000 loans to small businesses in an aggregate amount of more than $350 million.
“It’s not rocket science,” states Gooch-Smith, the longtime Executive Director of SEED.
“We’re just doing our job and helping small businesses in the region that want to grow and create jobs. But the end result is very satisfying.”
SEED is an independent nonprofit corporation headquartered in Taunton and governed by a dedicated board of directors comprised of regional leaders in banking, business, and government. They oversee SEED’s loan programs and a staff that
numbers more than a dozen professionals.
“We’re proud of our track record over three-plus decades and believe we’ve really made the difference for many small- and medium-sized regional businesses,” states Gooch-Smith.
The numbers back up her claim. As a direct result of SEED’s financing, 12,345 permanent jobs have been created by the businesses that have received these loans, and that number does not even count the shorter-term construction jobs associated with most loans. Most of these jobs are in southeastern Massachusetts, but SEED’s reach also extends into Rhode Island and up to the Boston area.
SEED makes most of its loans in partnership with the region’s banks. In addition to its own loan activity, SEED has leveraged more than $700 million in additional loans from banks and other private partners.
Many of the loans originate from SBA programs, while others are made from SEED’s own resources. Its own revolving loan program has loaned $20 million since 1984.
SEED’s services have expanded over time to address identified regional needs. As the regional SBA Intermediary for the Micro Loan Program, SEED makes micro loans up to $50,000, and conducts a Business Assistance Program, which includes small business workshops, individual business assistance, and a small business library. Last year, over 900 businesses and entrepreneurs took advantage of these services.
In 2005, SEED Ventures LP was created with a $20 million mezzanine fund which has been invested in 30 innovative companies with high growth and job creation potential.
In 2011, SEED was certified as a Community Development Financial Institution. This designation as a CDFI is a difficult-to-obtain status conferred by the U.S. Treasury Department. It has enabled SEED to obtain grant funds and increase its capital pool up to a total of $12 million from which to make small business loans.
Today, when regional businesses gather to express their concerns and grievances, adequate financing resources is far down on the list of issues, if it appears at all. It is not a stretch to give some credit for that to SEED Corporation, quietly making a difference in our region every day.
For more information call 508-822-1020 or visit seedcorp.com.