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SALAMANCA – The Southern Tier West Regional Planning & Development Board has entered 2014 with a goal of becoming a larger partner in the region, looking for ways to build more opportunities to help those with needs.

At its first meeting of the year, the board on Thursday welcomed new Chautauqua County Executive Vince Horrigan, who replaces board member Greg Edwards, who did not run for re-election.

“This is a great organization, doing good things,” Horrigan said. “I am proud to be able to serve.”

Executive Director Richard Zink said he would like to see some changes in the way the Southern Tier Enterprise Development Organization conducts business.

The primary purpose of the organization is to create and/or retain jobs and stimulate development of small- to mid-sized businesses within the region. It has a history of working closely with businesses and lenders to assemble financial packages flexible enough to accommodate the needs of most small-business owners. Southern Tier West administers the small-business loan programs operated by the development organization, which is an affiliate.

At present, enterprises in the three-county area represented by Southern Tier West can get loans at low interest rates, in amounts ranging from $10,000 to $150,000. To qualify, for every $5,000 in loan value, a business must commit to retaining or creating one job. The loan program is considered a gap financier, to help bridge the difference between the amount lenders offer and what the business needs.

According to Zink, there has been a decline in activity lately, as businesses have not been coming to the organization for funding because banks and other lenders have been going with an “all or nothing mentality” with businesses. Another problem is that too many business owners don’t know what the development organization can do.

In the coming months, Southern Tier West and the development organization will be looking for ways to better help businesses, Zink said. “If we can fill just a part of the need, it’s something we should consider,” he said.

“We are rapidly seeing a greater and greater need for businesses,” said Kier Dirlam, board member and member of the Allegany County Planning Board.

The board’s next meeting will be held at 1 p.m. on March 20 at the Center for Regional Excellence, 4039 Route 219, Suite 200 in Salamanca.