New Energy Loans for Small Businesses

A small state agency belongs to an elite minority: governmental units that turn a profit rather than costing the taxpayer. It's the State Assistance Fund for Energy-California Business and Industrial Development Corp., generally (and quite reasonably) known by its acronym, SAFE-BIDCO.

Its business is bankrolling small firms that want to make innovative, small-scale energy conservation efforts and to use new, again small-scale, alternative energy sources. It has just announced a new program to provide incentive for the building and purchasing of small commercial/industrial buildings that go beyond the state standards for energy efficiency.

Mark Braly, president, explained that the loans are currently being made at 10%, variable and pegged at one-half of 1% over the prime rate, adjustable quarterly. The term is 25 years, the maximum loan amount is $550,000 and the loan fee is less than 1%.

"That beats anything else available for commercial real estate," Braly said. "It's better than our normal rate for other kinds of business loans.

"The kind of buildings or projects we have in mind must be innovative but we do not have rigid standards in mind. They could be passive-solar in design or they might feature cogeneration, active solar, photovoltaic solar, thermal storage or other things that take them beyond the state of the art."

The agency has a statewide toll-free number for information or to request an application: 1-800/343-7233; its Southern California representative, Bob Kneisel, is at 1-818/798-9686.

And . . . "We ended our last fiscal year in the black," Braly said. "It was a small profit but it was the right color."

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