SPRUCE PINE – The walls in Bill Weeks’ office in the Wylie Building on Locust Street are covered with pictures of businesses and business owners. Some of the businesses are gone and some of them still here, but all of them began with a loan from the MAY Coalition.
“Some are gone, yes, but that is going to happen,” Weeks said. “Many are still here, however, and are staples of our business community.”
An acronym for Mitchell, Avery and Yancey, MAY Coalition is celebrating its 25th anniversary of creating employment opportunities for unemployed and underemployed residents of the three counties.
It was 1992 when Weeks and Susan Larson wrote a grant for the $1 million received from the Z. Smith-Reynolds Foundation that launched the corporation. MAY Coalition has two loan programs: one for qualifying businesses that agree to create new employment opportunities for residents of the three counties. These loans can range up to $250,000 and the jobs created must be full-time, non-seasonal and pay at least $6 per hour. The second loan program is for low- to moderate-income business owners that do not necessarily have to create new employment opportunities for others and can be used as an investment to enhance the owner’s income. These loans are limited to $25,000.
A total of nearly $11.5 million has been borrowed by hundreds of business owners since the MAY Coalition’s inception. It has received supplemental funding from the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina, the North Carolina Department of Commerce, the Thorenson Foundation, the United States Department of the Treasury CDFI Fund in addition long-term loan funding from USDA Rural Development.
“Some of that money is restructured loans,” Weeks said. “When the owners of Whitson’s came to us they were operating out of a little shop across from the funeral home. Some of the better ideas are ones I never would have thought of and we do loans banks generally won’t. We have financed quite a few restaurants, we helped finance the castle as well as lawn mowers. The small loans, to us, are just as important as the big ones.”
The big loans power MAY Coalition, but the small loans allow Weeks and the Coalition’s board to steer it in the direction they want it to go, he said.
“We can do the little loans because we do the big ones,” Weeks said. “Right now we are self-sustaining and haven’t had to ask for any money from the county or the town of Spruce Pine, which I’m really glad about.”
MAY Coalition is governed by a board of directors comprised of local business people and government representatives. A loan committee appointed by the board reviews loan applications and a majority vote of the entire board determines whether a loan is approved. Loan decisions are based on the likelihood of repayment, the character and credit history of the borrower, the soundness of the business idea, the quality of collateral offered and the number and quality of jobs created.
“We help create jobs and our core mission is job creation,” Weeks said. “I must give credit to the board of directors for sometimes saving me from making big mistakes; the board has been very wise in its decisions and favoritism is never involved.”
About Bill Weeks
MAY Coalition Director Bill Weeks is a native of Memphis, Tennessee. He earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration from Florida State University. He also attended the Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, and the University of Louisville, where he worked toward a master’s degree in community development.
About MAY Coalition
P.O. Box 704
Spruce Pine, NC 28777