A local company that manufactures a line of pet products will borrow $350,000 from the Jackson County Revolving Loan Fund to expand its facilities in Maquoketa.

The Jackson County Board of Supervisors approved the loan to Blue-9 LLC at its regular meeting last week. East Central Intergovernmental Association’s Business Growth Inc. is the lender, and the money comes from the Jackson County Revolving Loan Fund (RFL).

The company expects to create two new jobs as a result of the investment. The 20-year loan has a 2% interest rate. That rate will be reviewed every five years and capped at 6%, according to a presentation to the supervisors by Roger Stewart, the revolving loan fund’s chair, and Matt Specht, the ECIA’s business development coordinator. Blue-9 is contributing $150,000 to the project.

The money will be used to build additional facilities at the company’s current location, 1712 E. Maple St. The new building, which is for warehousing and to accommodate the company’s continued growth, will be 50 feet by 120 feet and connected to the existing building, allowing access indoors.

Blue-9 makes such products as the KLIMB training platform, which it introduced in 2014, and dog harnesses. The company also hosted the KLIMB Classic 2021 – Blue-9 at the Jackson County Fairgrounds last week, an annual event that brought hundreds of people to Maquoketa lodgings and restaurants.

Blue-9’s loan request was unanimously approved May 13 by the Jackson County RLF Review Committee – which is made up of representatives from all the local banks. Blue-9 also received a $140,000 loan from the fund in July 2019 to purchase molds for the business.

Under such RLF agreements, the county receives collateral, and businesses are required to submit financial statements, insurance information and other such information.

While the three supervisors all voted in favor of the loan, they did discuss in a broader sense concerns about balancing how much RLF money goes to individual businesses, how many jobs are created by the investments, and the availability of money if a larger company wanting to locate here seeks it.  

The committee knows that each time the county lends money, it has less money available in the revolving loan fund to assist incoming or expanding businesses, noted Stewart, who has served on the RLF committee more than 30 years. However, the nature and needs of the businesses seeking the loans has changed over the years.

“We were able to fulfill those job-creation guidelines at the time the program started. It was a little different environment 20 years ago,” Stewart said in a phone interview after the meeting. However, he shared with the supervisors, in recent years the committee chose to broaden the requirements for businesses applying for RLF monies.

“We went for quite a while where the money just sat there. Nothing happened. No job creation. About four or five years ago, the group broadened its scope and went into more commercial-type loans for businesses that were starting or wanted to apply for expansion. When we began to broaden our scope, there was more activity,” he noted.

“We know that we spent our money down. We had good applications, and we didn’t want to turn people away who were eligible and who want to enhance the community,” he said. “That’s forced the committee to make some hard decisions in the past year. It walks a line between using the money to help businesses be successful and depleting the funding.”

After the Blue-9 loan, the fund will be at $150,000, which is as low as it’s been for a long time, Stewart said. The fund will be replenished by the borrowers as they pay down their loans.

Currently, $12,061 is being paid back into the fund monthly. When all the loans are processed later this summer, that amount will jump to $15,164 each month.

“You hate to deny someone who’s here,” said Supervisor Mike Steines, noting it is a “first-come, first-served” basis.

“It’s not doing any good if it’s just sitting there,” agreed Supervisor Larry McDevitt of the fund.

Other recent fund activity includes:

 In June the supervisors approved a $100,000 loan to Moore Family Creamery, 605 Birch Drive in Maquoketa. The company initially applied for $150,000. The money is being used to buy machinery for the new creamery, which is owned and operated by Heather and Brandon Moore. The loan will be paid back with interest in seven years. The project is expected to add at least five new jobs.

• In March, Tempo Dance and Fitness Studio bought the former Community Church of Christ building at 212 Western Ave. in Maquoketa. Owners Mandy Kuster and Ashley Wing received a $178,000 loan to assist with the purchase and remodeling efforts.  

• In May 2020, the supervisors voted unanimously to lend $300,000 to the Together We Build Campaign, which is raising money for a $2.5 million ag learning hub to be built on the Jackson County Fairgrounds in Maquoketa. The commitment allowed project organizers to apply for a $500,000 state CAT (Community Attracting Tourism) grant, which it received. The no-interest loan must be paid back two years from the date the money is given.

• In July 2019 the supervisors approved a loan to Precision Metal Works to consolidate other loans and improve cash flow. That loan was renegotiated in 2021.