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Lunenburg business benefits from state loan; Money given to local banks.

Byline: Amanda Roberge

LUNENBURG - Once operated out of an office in Francis Dower's barn, Funstuf Rentals has a new home on the Fitchburg-Lunenburg line, thanks to a $100,000 loan geared toward helping small businesses.

The loan allowed Funstuf Rentals to move out of its residentially zoned home and into a commercial building at 10 Massachusetts Ave. in Lunenburg.

The loan was offered through the state's Small Business Banking Partnership Program, for which the treasurer's office has deposited up to $10 million in individual local banks with a caveat that it be loaned out to qualified small businesses. Rollstone Bank in Fitchburg has received money under the program and approved the loan for Funstuf Rentals.

"I'm just amazed at how many people have stopped in just to check the place out," said Mr. Dower, Funstuf's owner, after having been open a week at the business's new home on Massachusetts Avenue.

Money in hand, Mr. Dower was also able to significantly increase his inventory of inflatable items and concession equipment, which includes water slides, bungee runs, dunk tanks, a Velcro wall, a photo booth, barbecue grills, lobster steamers and pig roasters, as well as tables, tents and chairs.

He is optimistic that the high visibility and vehicle traffic will be a boon to business, as his former location was subject to residential zoning laws that prohibited clients from setting foot on the property, which limited sales to phone and online transactions.

As part of an effort to relocate state cash reserves, which are typically held by large national and international financial institutions, state Treasurer Steven Grossman said he hopes the renewed focus on small businesses will create more jobs throughout the state.

"Essentially, we will deposit up to $10 million of this reserve money in any bank that wants to participate and is willing to pay a competitive interest rate," said Mr. Grossman, who took a tour of Funstuf Rentals recently.

As part of the agreement, banks sign a document signaling their intent to enhance loan portfolios to small, credit-worthy businesses in their communities.

To date, $317 million has been deposited into 52 banks across Massachusetts.

Fitchburg Mayor Lisa Wong said the initiative has resulted in loans to more than two dozen small businesses in the north central region this year. She added that the trickle-down effect of helping small-business owners can make a difference for the local economy.

The idea is that as businesses grow and thrive, they will utilize the services and products of other local businesses - from manufacturing and service industries to retail and supply - and will also be the source of job opportunities.

For Mr. Dower, even the early stages of his expansion have enabled him to increase his staff from three or four seasonal part-time positions to one full-time position, held by a store manager, and at least eight seasonal part-time openings.

"Small businesses have been the heart and soul of north Central Massachusetts for decades," said Ms. Wong.

ART: PHOTO

CUTLINE: Massachusetts state Treasurer Steven Grossman, left, is given a tour of FunStuf Rentals in Lunenburg by store owner Francis Dower.

PHOTOG: T&G Staff/PAUL KAPTEYN
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Title Annotation:BUSINESS MATTERS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:May 19, 2013
Words:522
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