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Local Small Businesses Get Help Through Stimulus

Millions of federal stimulus dollars have poured into Central Ohio, a lot of it in the form of grants for medical research or road improvements. But Stimulus money is helping small businesses like a florist, dog groomer and funeral home. WOSU continues our series "Following the Stimulus Money."

After 30 years in the Short North, Will Shively moved his photography studio to Grandview Heights. It's has the feel of a trendy loft in SoHo. Exposed steel beams line the ceiling and classic rock plays in the background. Shively's disheveled hair and eclectic jewelry mirror his studio's coolness.

"It's facing south. So I have light as the sun goes left to right all day long. So it makes, really, really, really, really nice portraits," Shively said.

Tired of paying rent, Shively wanted to own the building. And that's were stimulus dollars came in. He bought his studio with the help of a $50,000 Small Business Association Loan, funded by the 2009 Recovery act.

"It had a very good rate. And I was really overjoyed with that because interest can eat you alive," he said.

The stimulus bill allocated $730 million to the SBA to help small businesses around the country. About half the money is being used to eliminate fees and increase the government guaranteed portion of some loans to 90 percent. In Will Shively's case, though, the stimulus backed loan did not add any jobs and it may not save Shively Photography. The weak economy and the loss of a big account has him considering selling the building and repaying the loan.

"Not to say that it can't come back or whatever. It's just, at the time, it's difficult. All we have is now. You know, and if now you're going down the tubes, then you know, it's a very uncomfortable situation especially after all these years of hard work," Shively said.

Twenty minutes down the road in Grove City Pamela Saviors's gives a quick tour of her new salon.

"I always had a dream, you know, I want to get out there and do this on my own and have my own place," Saviors said.

After years of renting space out of someone else's salon, Saviors, a massage therapist and cosmetologist, will be the owner of Human Touch Salon and Day Spa. Although Saviors had been saving, it was not enough to get her started. She needed a loan. As cliche as it may sound, the third try was a charm for Saviors. The bank helped her get a $48,000 loan backed by the stimulus package.

"The loan was for equipment, product and start up costs and things like that. So as you can see looking around I've spent quite a bit of money," she noted.

Saviors' salon is set to open next week.

"I'll have up to eight people here. So I'm providing up to eight people with employment here, and it could be even more than that. We'll see how it goes," Saviors said. While Saviors and Shively received modest loans, Vernon Blazek, part-owner of Mia Cucinia in New Albany received a much larger stimulus-backed SBA loan: $200,000.

Blazek spent eight years running Brio at Easton before venturing out on his own to open the family-run Italian restaurant.

"We wanted to open a conservatively priced restaurant here in New Albany. We really tried to make it look beautiful inside so you wouldn't feel like you were in a strip mall once you got in," he said.

Blazek wanted to go with only a few partners but he could not get credit. More than two dozen banks rejected him. Then he qualified for a stimulus-backed SBA loan.

"Fridays and Saturdays we're on an hour wait both nights. Those two nights are great. Most of the evenings are great. Lunches are hit or miss," Blazek said.

And as far as stimulating the economy Blazek's new restaurant has given jobs to 50 employees.

For more on our series - go to our website wosu.org and look for a link to our following the Stimulus Money blog.