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SUPPORTING SMALL BUSINESS: State loan program helps keep business afloat

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OLMSTED COUNTY, Minn. (KTTC) -- You gotta have grit to be a small business owner. That's especially true this year, more so than most others.

"Passion is what enables any business owner to withstand the difficult times," said Blue Moon Ballroom Director Fred Gommels. "If you only like your business, you're only in it for the money, you won't be able to withstand the toughest times. Because it's passion that enables a person to make it through."

"The rebuilding process is going to take, you just don't know as a business owner," Gommels added. "In fact, as a business owner we live every day by a bit of uncertainly because anything could happen and in this case, unexpectedly, the pandemic."

While Gommels says things are starting to look up, he hasn't always seen it that way.

"The first two weeks were nothing but traumatic," Gommels said. "We have two businesses and they were both shut down. It was like losing a close brother or sister."

Small businesses are continuing an upward battle: working to stay afloat and maybe rebuild amid a pandemic.

Thursday afternoon, Gov. Tim Walz, joined by Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan toured a few businesses in the Twin Cities that were recipients of the Minnesota Small Business Emergency Loan. (SBEL)

"We all have to work together to support these small businesses and the community during this time," Flanagan said.

$318,400 was given to Olmsted County in SBEL funding out of the state's total of $27,247,570.

It was given to places like A+ Nails in Stewartville.

"I'm very grateful for that," owner Tri Nguyen said. "That helped a lot, to be honest more than I expected."

Tri Nguyen owns and operates Stewartville's A+ Nails for nearly five years. He says when he was able to reopen his doors after a mandated shut down, "it was the best feeling ever."

Gommels also received funding.

"It gives us the financial strength to be able to continue and get our feet back on the ground and rebuild our financial base," Gommels said.

The funding was given in the initial stages of the pandemic, when many businesses were forced to shut down. Unfortunately for many, there are still tough days ahead.

"I think as Minnesotans, we are going to figure out how to bridge these gaps," Walz said at Thursday's gathering. "Figure out how to not only navigate COVID-19, but to figure out how we are all in this together. To listen to folks, and take critiques. If they say the program needs to move faster, we will figure out a way to move it faster."

Making sure those with grit, keep on keeping on.

"This is the only thing that matters," Nguyen said. "The business is the only thing that matters. It's the biggest thing in my life."

Loans from the SBEL program were between $2,500 and $35,000.

Beret Leone

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