Executives at The Callaway Bank announced Wednesday that they want to help jump-start Fulton's downtown revitalization efforts.
"We decided to take a lead in helping to get it started, and decided we are going to look at a pool of $1 million to set aside specifically for revitalization initiatives downtown," said Rick Gohring, president of the Callaway County Markets. "We sense a strong need to help downtown - there's a lot of vacancy, a lot of unused space."
Bank president Bruce Harris said the bank's initiative is targeting both sides of Court and Nichols streets, from Fourth Street up to Sixth Street.
"This pot of money is specially designed to start the process of revitalizing this area," Harris said. "We're going to offer it at 2-percent interest.
We want to be attractive to people who want to move their business downtown or refurbish their building downtown."
He said the idea to offer this special lending rate within a portion of the Brick District actually was prompted by a recent walk through the area.
"Rick (Gohring) came in one day several weeks ago and he had been walking and counted, and he said, "We have 18 empty storefronts downtown. We have to do something about this,'" Harris said, noting The Callaway Bank's executive team held a meeting to talk about the issue. "(We decided) it's time for somebody to step up and put our money where our mouth is."
"Frankly, when I did my walk, I thought, "Oh my gosh, we've got all this prime property being under-utilized,'" Gohring added.
He said the bank will help serious applicants develop their business plans.
"We're going to look at all the tools we have available to help them be successful," Gohring said. "We also have access to SBA (Small Business Administration) funds and USDA business and industry loans. We're excited about the potential."