By Enid Joaquin
Entrepreneurs across Linden and Region 10 will finally be afforded the opportunity to access loans to further expand or consolidate their businesses, when the Linden Enterprise Network (LEN) gives out its first set of loans today.
This will be done during the official launch of the entity at 10:00hrs by President David Granger, who will be gracing the occasion and will personally hand out some of the loans.
The President is also expected to unveil the new ‘Welcome To Linden’ sign, which was donated by mobile network giant Digicel, and later have lunch at the Watooka Complex, where several residents are expected to join him.
LEN’s new board was inaugurated last year January, after the entity had remained in limbo for years, after taking over from its predecessor LEAP (Linden Economic Advancement Programme).
LEN was established after LEAP’s existence ended in December of 2009.
But there were more questions than answers, as regards LEN’s role, as business persons became increasingly frustrated over the unavailability of funds to further develop their businesses.
CEO of LEN Valerie Adams-Patterson said that it had become embarrassing when persons requested loans.
“People were approaching us for loans and we couldn’t deliver, and we couldn’t tell them when we would have been able to do so – so it was really embarrassing.
Patterson said that things have however changed and several persons that have applied for the loans, and whose applications were approved, would be receiving their loans today.
LEN was appropriated $155 million by the Granger administration in its very first budget, Adams-Patterson said. She noted that out of that amount, $100 million will be used to facilitate the loans, while the remainder was used in the rehabilitation of the entity’s headquarters on Republic Avenue. The expenditure included the installation of new air conditioning units, proper lighting and the purchase of new computers and other equipment.
A part of the money was also utilized to rehabilitate a few of the company vehicles, she added.
Like its predecessor, LEN is expected to boost the economic viability of Linden and Region Ten. LEAP along with its sister entity LEAF (Linden Economic Advancement Fund), was designed to provide loans for business development in the Region.
Some 701 loans were reportedly granted under LEAF, totalling in excess of $732M.
But the entity was roundly criticised by Lindeners, who felt that the organization had not quite fulfilled the purpose for which it was established, which was to help create a more viable economic climate and provide more jobs.
The entity in its seven years of existence was not quite successful in diversifying what is commonly known as the mining town, into a town that depended less heavily on bauxite as its mainstay.
During LEAP’s operations, some $40 million was spent in establishing the Region Ten Business Centre, $100 million on the River Front Development Project, including the $43.9M Egbert Benjamin Exhibition and Conference Centre at Mackenzie and the $18M spent to rehabilitate and enhance the River Front, in the Coop Crescent vicinity.
Other projects included the establishment of a farm at Moblissa on the Linden/Soesdyke Highway, to offer technical support to farmers within the Region, and the rehabilitation of the Linden/Georgetown bus park.
LEAP was launched with 12 million euros; 1.9 million euros of that sum was allotted to LEAF, the lending arm of the organization. LEAP utilized the remainder for administration, technical assistance and infrastructural development.
By Enid Joaquin