Coastal Gateway EDA has taken the lead on a program that connects existing businesses, industries and farms with programs from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs (ADECA) to provide energy efficiency improvements at existing facilities as part of its Regional Energy Initiative.
In partnership with Alabama Power, Southern Pine Electric Cooperative, Black Warrior EMC, Clarke-Washington EMC, Pioneer Electric Cooperative and Evergreen Electrical, existing businesses, industries and farms can qualify for an audit of their business’ energy usage, free of charge. Once the results of the audit are in hand, business owners can access an array of grant and loan funds to make efficiency improvements, which cover a wide range of potential upgrades for most facilities.
Business owners will be able to access a grant program through USDA that covers 25 percent of the project cost, with a minimum grant award of $1,500 and a maximum award amount of $250,000. Coastal Gateway has identified grant packagers who will help businesses file the necessary paperwork with USDA to apply for the grants and loans.
In addition to the grant program, Coastal Gateway has identified two low-cost loan programs to help defray the costs even further.
- For loans between $5,000 and $49,999, USDA provides a loan for up to 75 percent of the project cost, with an 85-percent loan guarantee built into the agreement. Rates and terms are negotiated between the borrower and lender.
- For loans between $50,000 and $4 million, ADECA provides loans as low as 1 percent through its Alabama Saves program. Borrowers will negotiate with local banks and ADECA will buy down the loan rates, allowing business owners to access low-cost money while still allowing local banks to benefit from participation in the project.
- The Coastal Gateway Lending Alliance – United Bank, First United Security Bank, Trustmark Bank, First National Bank & Trust, Bank of Evergreen and Merchants Bank – will provide lending services to local businesses. Businesses may also acquire loans through banks with whom they have a prior relationship.
A wide array of projects qualify for the funding, including agricultural, industrial, commercial and retail. Examples of eligible projects include lighting, HVAC updates, installation of insulation and purchase of new manufacturing equipment.
The program helps businesses convert expenses into profits, and has proven effective in creating jobs and helping many companies expand production capacity by redirecting money that would otherwise be spent on utility bills.