The New Milford Economic Development Corporation is gaining momentum.

Debbie Pritchard, a board member and longtime business owner, describes the corporation as in "its infancy but starting to take speed."

It has organized two programs: the Village Center façade improvement program and the microloan program.

"The facade program is a means for the owners of commercial buildings within the Village Center district to get low-cost funding to refurnish their buildings," board chairman Nicholas Gazetos explained. "By improving the look of highly visible buildings this leads to a general sense of well being and can act as a means of economic stimulus."

Open to landlords and business tenants in the Village Center district, the initiative is a grant and loan program that would allow businesses and commercial property owners to refresh the front of their buildings to increase the aesthetic quality of the downtown area.

Applicants can receive up to $5,000 in low-cost funding, including up to $2,500 in grant funding.

The grant and loan funding provides business owners or their landlords the opportunity to install new doors, repaint, repair walls and windows, install cornices and purchase new awnings, as well as other exterior improvements that will beautify the village.

The hope is the improvements will retain the historic character and feel of the town, create more attractive commercial zones, increase interest from patrons and new business prospects and increase property values.

Luigi Fulinello, the town's economic development supervisor, who is president of the corporation, said three businesses have received approval to get a combination of loans and grants through the façade program, but the names have yet to be released.

The program is ongoing, and Fulinello said he is hopeful once these projects move forward, more applications will be forthcoming.

The new microloan program is geared toward existing small businesses or early stage businesses looking for loans of $15,000 or less.

"It's for small businesses looking for access to capital but are having difficulty getting money from a financial institution," Fulinello said.

He said as the program is in the development stages, he expects the public outreach and fundraising effort will begin soon.

Once in place, if the program is successful and the corporation meets certain criteria, Fulinello said the group could partner with the U.S. Small Business Administration, opening the door to potentially "receive direct capital from them to then loan out as a local microloan."

Access to loans could go up to the $250,000 to $750,000 range, he said.

He noted history has shown microloan programs "are making an impact."

-- Deborah Rose