By Jonathan Devin, Commercial Appeal
9/24/2010 - Small businesses in northeast Shelby County will have an opportunity to make energy-efficiency improvements to their facilities through a newly formed network of green solution providers and a green-oriented funding source.
The Bartlett Area Chamber of Commerce kicked off its Team Green Zone initiative Thursday at a gathering of about 65 business owners at the Wolfchase Holiday Inn and Suites.
Clay Banks, director of economic development for the chamber, said that Team Green Zone is one phase of the chamber's "Vision 20/20," a 10-year development plan for areas including Lakeland, Bartlett, Arlington and Cordova."We have been approached by five to 10 companies that want to go green," said Banks. "I would recommend things to companies, but we never had a plan of action for those who want to take their companies green."
Phase I of Vision 20/20 took place from 2008 to 2009 and involved recruiting new businesses to the area, which Banks said resulted in 2,500 new jobs and $230 million in capital investments.
Phase II will involve identifying new businesses within four target areas including medical devices, agriculture, and retail/tourism and then re-commissioning existing buildings for energy efficiency.
"Re-commissioning (existing) buildings is our greatest resource," said Clayton Poff, owner of Energy Cost Reducers LLC, who spoke to the group.
Team Green Zone is a public/private partnership supported by some 20 corporations that will assess participating businesses' facilities with the goal of reducing fossil-fuel emissions and total energy intensity.
After an initial study of participating businesses is completed in early October, participants can apply for loans from Pathway Lending, a nonprofit lender that specializes in green improvements.
Amy Bunton, senior vice president of Pathway Lending, said $50 million in capital is available, and she expects loans to start at about $20,000 with 5 percent interest.
Applications for loans and data from the Team Green Zone study will be presented to Pathway Lending by the end of October, and loans will close by early December.
Costs associated with the initial assessment of businesses will be paid by business owners up front, but may be reimbursed through the loans.
Bunton said a key to the program is that the loans will all be repaid through savings recovered by improved energy efficiency.
"Finding the capital always seems to be the stumbling block for taking the next step," said Al Campbell, client manager for Pathway Lending.
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