Thursday, August 26, 2010

TN loan program helps businesses go green

Tennessee businesses seeking energy-efficient makeovers will soon have access to a $50 million low-interest loan program, state officials announced Wednesday.
The Energy Efficient Loan Program will provide loans from $20,000 to $1 million to businesses with a plan for energy-saving upgrades, ranging from solar panels and high-efficiency lighting to geothermal installations and large-scale industrial process transformations requiring new machinery or a redesigned production line.

The program is designed to address the Catch-22 businesses typically face — the improvements make businesses more profitable over time, but a company may lack the cash to implement them.

"For companies, the problem is that they don't have capital in their internal budgets, and traditional lenders are hesitant to make that kind of loan," said Clint Gwin, president of Pathway Lending, a nonprofit organization with headquarters in Nashville that's administering the program.

Pathway Lending is contributing $5 million in startup costs for the loan program, whose other partners — the state of Tennessee, the Tennessee Valley Authority and Pinnacle Financial Partners — are contributing $15 million each, Gwin said. The program will charge below-market interest rates and aims to be an ongoing, self-sustaining fund.

The genesis of the program was to make Tennessee's industrial base more competitive, but research found that commercial as well as industrial enterprises were equally in need of access to capital.

"By providing access to this type of financing, we are making Tennessee businesses more competitive and that means more jobs," Gov. Phil Bredesen said. The initial application deadline is Nov. 1. Businesses must provide an "energy audit" outlining detailed energy upgrade plans. For more information or to apply, visit or call 615-425-7171.

Reach Anita Wadhwani at or call 615-259-8092.

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