Portage County now offers cheap loans for homeowners, small businesses and family farms

The Portage County Treasurer’s Office and three local banks are partnering on a $2 million discount loan program to benefit homeowners making energy efficiency improvements, small businesses seeking to create or retain jobs, and family farms that need cost-effective ways to manage expenses.

The program, called Portage GrowLink, was initiated by Portage County Treasurer Brad Cromes and approved by county commissioners this spring. Through Portage GrowLink, up to $2 million are available for lending at discounted rates from Hometown Bank, Middlefield Banking Company and Portage Community Bank.

Portage GrowLink replaces the Portage County Home Improvement Program, which had been in effect since 2015 and was limited to home loans.

“Portage GrowLink gives us a tool to not only help homeowners get projects done, but also to support the small businesses and family farms that make Portage County thrive,” Cromes said in a statement announcing the program June 16.

Under the program, Portage GrowLink will fund home energy efficiency improvements up to $25,000 per borrower, family farm operating loans of up to $50,000 per borrower and small business loans of up to $250,000 per borrower. The program also contains a “veterans preference,” which, during times of high demand, will give veterans of the United States armed services preferred access to lending.

Borrowers can receive up to 3% off the loan interest rate they would otherwise qualify for up to five years. After the discount period, interest rates return to market levels at the time of the loan.

In exchange for reduced interest rates on loans made under the program, the Portage County Treasurer’s Office will purchase investments with each lender at a similarly discounted rate.

“What we give up in interest income we regain in community investment,” Cromes said. “Making sure residents have the resources they need to maintain and improve their property and create jobs benefits all of us.”

To sign up for the program, residents may complete an application at the Hometown Bank and Portage Community Bank branches in Ravenna and Kent, or the Middlefield Banking Company branch in Mantua. Once approved, borrowers have one year to complete their projects and submit receipts to the Portage County Treasurer’s Office.

For more information about Portage GrowLink, call the treasurer’s office at 330-297-3586, Hometown Bank at 330-677-6026, Middlefield Banking Company at 330-247-0881, Portage Community Bank at 330-296-8090, or visit the treasurer’s website at https://www.portagecounty-oh.gov/treasurer-brad-cromes-cgfm under the “Treasurer Programs” tab.

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Tom Hardesty is a Portager sports columnist. He was formerly assistant sports editor at the Record-Courier and author of the book Glimpses of Heaven.