EAST LIVERPOOL - A pair of city business owners were granted loan requests by the East Liverpool Community Improvement Corporation's Finance Committee last week, though not without unease among some due to one's association with another loan holder.
Guillermo Fernandez, owner of William's Graphic Design on East Fifth Street, made a request for a $20,000 loan that would be used for the purchase of new equipment, repair of existing equipment and the purchase of a manufacturer's warranty.
Fernandez said that his graphic design and printing business has been experiencing steady growth since opening in the former Mezzanine Mall at the corner of Fifth and Washington Streets in 2008. The new equipment would assist him in branching off into signage banners and T-shirt printing, both of which require specialized equipment.
After the Mezzanine mall closed last year, the business moved across Washington to its present location at 501 E. Fifth St. Fernandez said he wants to keep his business downtown, despite some suggesting that he would be better off relocating to Calcutta.
"My idea is to be local, to stay local," he said.
Mentioned in his loan request was possible use of a portion of the loan funds as a down payment on the Fifth Street building, which has recently been put up for sale by current owner Brian Kerr, who runs his own business, PC Doctors, next to William's Printing. Despite his not being in attendance at the meeting, Kerr's shadow cast a brief pall on Fernandez's request.
Following misgivings voiced by member Sam Scafide, Fernandez emphasized that the loan he is asking for is not for the purchase of the building, but primarily for the investment of new equipment. If Kerr is to vacate the building, however, he would be in a position to make a down payment on another location within the city, with remaining on Fifth Street and arranging a deal with Kerr as a desirable option.
"I want to be prepared if I need to move," Fernandez said. "I can take a look to different options. If I can stay there, that would be my best option."
Ray Perorazio voiced his personal support for Fernandez, but asked for a guarantee that his business- and, by extension, the CIC's loan money - would remain in East Liverpool. Perorazio mentioned Kerr by name as an example of loans made in the past to business owners who decided to leave the city after receiving a CIC loan. "This money is not to seed some company so they can move out of town," he said.
City Law Director Bill Cowan intervened on Fernandez's behalf, saying that the actions of Kerr shouldn't reflect upon Fernandez, whose only business association with Kerr to this point is as a property renter.
"This really isn't about Brian," Cowan said.
Perorazio asked for an addendum to the loan document stating that under such circumstances, the loan money must be repaid in full. "Other than that, it's fine with me," he said.
Following assurance that such a statement would be added, the board unanimously agreed to pass his request on to the full board for approval.
The second loan request was a far simpler affair. Tom Beagle, of Team Impact on Pennsylvania Avenue, asked for $10,342.49 toward the purchase of additional exercise equipment.
Beagle said he has taken the reverse route of many businesses locally, starting out in Calcutta before moving to his East End location, where he and his family have settled in the Klondyke area.
"We're showing that the East End isn't as bad as anywhere else," Beagle said, stating every location throughout the area has its various problems for business owners.
Scafide suggested using part of the money to purchase a larger sign, saying Beagle has an excellent facility, but said the public wasn't aware of their presence due to lack of adequate signage.