“I’ve talked to other businesses in town who, you know, may have a whole week where they don’t see hardly any sales, and that’s really, really hard,” said Melissa Smith, owner of 1820 Candle Company.
In the months since the derailment, the shutdown of E. Taggert Street effectively cut off traffic from Western Pennsylvania to the area businesses.
“A lot of businesses have experienced a loss in foot traffic, you know, loss in sales, loss in inventory through the derailment,” said Haeden Panezott, private sector specialist with the Columbiana County Port Authority.
Monday, afternoon Senator Sherrod Brown unveiled plans for a new revolving loan program for smaller businesses — those with fewer than 50 employees. Brown said even though the area’s recovery continues, there is still more to be done.
“One is getting people’s lives back to normal here, and we’re getting there, closer and closer, and the other is to hold Norfolk Southern accountable,” Brown said.
The program will be offered through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and could be used to cover equipment and expenses other than payroll — offering rates as low as 1 percent.
“Which is an excellent rate, and really, the goal is to drive small business development — business start-ups,” said John McCracken, state director of the USDA.
The program will allow owners to borrow up to $150,000 with up to 10 years to pay it back. Owners could begin applying for the new loans later this month.