Craft District's collective spirit impresses SBA official

Baihly Warfield
Updated: October 14, 2020 06:23 PM

A PPP loan helped Flora North sustain its business through economic shutdowns related to the COVID-19 pandemic. And Wednesday, the shop got a visit from the Great Lakes Regional Administrator of the Small Business Administration. 


Rob Scott had never been to Duluth before and said he was immediately impressed at how a collective approach has helped local businesses in the Lincoln Park Craft District survive. 

"Just the mindset of the small business owners here in Duluth is something that I've not seen in my region and across the country where it truly is a team approach," Scott said. "People are helping people and being kind, and really just the efforts of supporting one another is very impactful." 

Shawn Wellnitz, president and CEO of the Entrepreneur Fund, said the SBA has recently taken an interest in what's working for Duluth. 

"I think we really have a unique culture in this region around coming together and doing what's right for both community and economy. And I think that's something that we should all be proud of," Wellnitz said. 

Scott also visited a sheet metal company, Frost River Trading, Duluth's Best Bread and Ursa Minor Brewing. He said he was struck by stories of owners putting their own interests aside and taking care of their employees. 

"That's the type of commitment you get from small business ownership versus a very large corporation that they don't know all their employees," he said. "These owners, they knew their employees. They knew they had families, they knew they had to put food on the table for their children. And you could see it. They would well up talking about it. And just that commitment here in Duluth, you don't see that everywhere." 

He said he came to hear what worked with the PPP loans and what local businesses need going forward. According to Wellnitz, places like event centers that rely on groups of people congregating are the ones still hurting.

"No one I think wants a handout," Wellnitz said. "They just want to be able to do the right thing by their employees and kind of bide their time as we get through this." 

Scott said he knows there is uncertainty and hopes lawmakers in Washington will come together soon. 

"A business owner doesn't care about the inefficiencies and the bickering in Washington. They care about exactly what I said: taking care of their employees and their employees' families and hopefully making a profit and living the American dream."

PPP loans are now up for forgiveness, provided businesses have met the conditions. Scott encouraged business owners to work with their lender on the forgiveness application. And he said if there is still concern about Q4, Economic Injury Disaster Loans are still available. Those are up to $150,000, 30-year amortization, 2.75% interest rates. Scott said they do not accrue interest for the first year. 

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Baihly Warfield

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