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Kalamazoo Small Business Loan Fund Offers Support to Kalamazoo Small Businesses Hurt by COVID-19

The Kalamazoo City Commission has approved the Kalamazoo Small Business Loan Fund (KSBLF), a partnership with the United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region (UWBCKR) that would offer near-immediate support for small businesses that have been hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic.

KSBLF will provide urgent relief to small business via low-interest loans of between $5,000 and $50,000, with approval and disbursement expected in a matter of days. Loans could be used to cover operational expenses, payroll, and benefits.

The loan program is funded by a $2 million allocation from the Foundation for Excellence.

 “Significant and necessary steps have been taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” noted Kalamazoo City Manager Jim Ritsema, “but these steps have created serious hardships for the small businesses that we all rely on. This program is intended to help these businesses stay open and keep people employed until state and federal support has an impact.”

The program is available to all businesses that meet the following criteria:

  • Provide support to impacted employees
  • are located within the City of Kalamazoo
  • Have 50 employees or fewer
  • Need working capital for payroll or operational expenses
  • Can demonstrate an income loss related to COVID-19

Loans will have the following terms:

  • Total term of 36 months
  • No payments required for six months, followed by a fully amortizing 30-month term
  • Interest rate of 1%

Complete details and the online application are available at https://changethestory.org/kalamazoo-small-business/.               

Applications will be reviewed for approval by an advisory board consisting of economic development and community representatives. Review is expected to take place weekly with a goal to wire funds as early as two days after receiving an application. This program is emergency relief and is intended to be temporary, with loans being made until approved grant funds are exhausted or its closure by the partners.

“We know that people are working around the clock at the state and federal level to organize help, but we are thinking about our city, and see these rapidly available funds as critical to bridging businesses and our workforce until State and Federal help materializes,” said Andrew Haan, President of Kalamazoo Downtown Partnership.

The program was designed by the UWBCKR and City of Kalamazoo based on national best practice models and local assistance from the Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), Kalamazoo Downtown Partnership, and the Michigan Small Business Development Center. The strong community partnerships that exist in Kalamazoo made it possible to move this program from inception to execution in less than two weeks. It complements other relief programs that are also available to community members, including the UWBCKR Disaster Relief Fund and the Kalamazoo Community Foundation Urgent Relief Fund.

 “This program aims to offer immediate life-lines to small businesses and their workers, especially those in the category of “asset limited, income constrained, employed” (ALICE), and retain workforce capacity in this time before state and federal programs to show impact,” said Chris Sargent, President & CEO of the UWBCKR.

The United Way of the Kalamazoo and Battle Creek Region

United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region envisions a vibrant community where all people realize their full potential. UWBCKR drives impact by leading shared efforts that engage diverse people, ideas and resources. We partner across all sectors year-round to achieve measurable progress towards specific goals in education, income and health—the building blocks for a good quality life. On the web: www.changethestory.org. Also check us out on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube.

The Foundation for Excellence

The Foundation for Excellence was created in 2016 to help address challenges to the prosperity of the City and help make Kalamazoo the most dynamic, fulfilling and equitable place that it can be.

The FFE provides funds to stabilize the City’s budget, lower the property tax rate, and invest in aspirational community projects and programs. FFE funds support programs and projects of City departments, such as Public Services, Community Planning and Economic Development, and Parks and Recreation. Their work is often conducted in partnerships with external organizations whose missions align with the goals of the City.

3-1-1 Contact Center Offers Service with ‘One Call to City Hall’

City residents can dial 3-1-1 within the city limits for assistance with any City service. For service outside of the city limits, dial (269) 337-8000.

The City of Kalamazoo is celebrating 3-1-1 Day with the introduction of the new 3-1-1 contact center. Starting today, anyone within the city limits can dial 3-1-1 to be connected with any non-emergency city services. When outside of the city limits, the contact center can be reached by dialing (269) 337-8000.

In the event of an emergency, residents should continue to dial 9-1-1.

The 3-1-1 contact center consolidates and coordinates all customer service in one division. Instead of having to locate the correct number for the correct department or person for any particular request, residents may now simply dial 3-1-1 for assistance. Translation is also available for more than 200 languages.

“We wanted to streamline and simplify customer service for our community,” explained City Manager Jim Ritsema. “By creating a dedicated team to assist community members, we can provide better, faster, and more effective service. This also lets our staff in other departments focus on their core tasks.”

3-1-1 is a division of the City Manager’s Office that was created in 2018. In the time since, every type of service request has been reviewed, and processes for handling them have been reevaluated. In total, more than 1,200 scripts have been written to explain how to handle various types of calls. Each department’s calls were transferred to the contact center in phases. 3-1-1 Experience Ambassadors first started answering phone calls in November 2018 for Water, Wastewater, Assessing, and Treasury divisions. All non-emergency calls had been transferred to the 3-1-1 team by the end of 2019.

Transferring customer service to a new division was an organization-wide effort, which relied not only on the 3-1-1 team but also staff in every department. The project also benefited from the experience and expertise of colleagues with the City of Grand Rapids. Becky Jo Glover, Grand Rapids’ Chief Customer Service and Innovation Officer, was an invaluable partner throughout the process, sharing insights from her experience creating the GR311 Customer Service Center in Grand Rapids and Miami-Dade County 311 in Florida.

“The City of Grand Rapids and their GR311 team have been outstanding throughout this project,” continued City Manager Ritsema. “Their advice on everything from software to scriptwriting to processes has been a huge help with implementation in Kalamazoo. We’re really grateful for their support.”

With the Customer Service Center answering all non-emergency calls, focus will shift to refining processes to make service as quick and convenient as possible, with a goal to resolve all issues in one call. The number of repeat callers and frequency of issues can help inform future improvements to online and in-person service.

About 3-1-1

The 3-1-1 number is reserved by the Federal Communications Commission for non-emergency governmental service. Telecom service and cell service providers program this number to contact the City of Kalamazoo for calls that originate within the city limits. Callers can reach the customer service center from anywhere by calling (269) 337-8000. Customers of some phone providers may initially need to dial 337-8000 while 311 programming is completed on their networks.

In the event of an emergency, residents should continue to dial 9-1-1.


Community Invited to Review and Discuss Street Design Options on March 4

The City of Kalamazoo will host a community meeting on Wednesday, March 4 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. in the Van Deusen Room at the Central Library (315 S Rose Street) to review and discuss potential street design options.

This is the third in a series of community meetings to inform the City’s Streets Design Project. Since August 2019, input has been collected through two community meetings, including a hands-on workshop where residents created their ideal street designs; walking audits; and a bike survey. This input has been compiled with traffic engineering best practices to create potential street design options.

This meeting will start with a presentation at 6:30 pm followed by an open house. The presentation will include an update on the street design process, an overview of potential street design options, and review of these designs through the lens of Complete Streets. During the open house portion of the event, residents will be able to review the street design options more closely and share their input on boards and through small group discussions.

In addition to this community meeting, the City has hosted a series of neighborhood meetings throughout January and February to discuss both zoning and street design. Input collected at those neighborhoods meetings and at this third street design meeting, will be compiled to determine the best designs for Kalamazoo’s street network. Recommended street designs with consideration for budget and construction will be presented at the fourth community meeting which will be scheduled in spring 2020.

For more information on this project please visit the Imagine Kalamazoo website at www.imaginekalamazoo.com/projects/streetsdesign

About the Streets Design Project

In January 2019, the Michigan Department of Transportation transferred control of several key road segments to the City of Kalamazoo. Local control of these streets has created the opportunity to explore design changes that would help realize many aspects of the City’s 2025 Master Plan related to connectivity, transportation, and safety. Potential changes have been explored throughout the on-going Street Design Project, which combines community input, traffic engineering best practices, and a Complete Streets network approach.

City of Kalamazoo

Home to the Kalamazoo Promise, three institutions of higher education, two nationally recognized healthcare systems, cutting-edge medical research, world-class brewing and dining, outstanding parks, and an extensive variety of music, art, theatre, and cultural attractions.


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 (269) 337-8000
 (269) 337-8182
 241 West South Street
     Kalamazoo, MI 49007

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