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The Small Business Development Center is teaming up with Town and Country Bank to host a seminar on the Advantage Illinois program, which is intended to help women, veteran and minority-owned businesses in Illinois get loans.

The Advantage Illinois program has two programs, one of which is Fund for the Advancement of Minority Enterprises for women, veteran and minority-owned businesses, according to Rob Pickerell, vice president and commercial banking officer of Town and Country Bank. Businesses can receive a loan of 50 percent or $400,000, whichever is less, at a fixed interest rate for seven years. In contrast, the traditional Advantage Illinois program is open to anyone, and through it businesses can receive a loan of up to $1.5 million. He said there are no other programs like it of which he is aware.

“This program specifically having no program-related fees, having no separate application process, it’s a great way for small business owners in that they’re a great, non-complicated way for small business owners to gain funding that they maybe simply would not be able to get,” Pickerell said.

Pickerell said the webinar is going to cover the history of the program and how it works, and he is going to focus more on the process of what businesses must do.

“I want to make sure the program does not get a bad rap,” Pickerell said. “If you don’t get all the information and think as a customer, ‘All I [have to] do is just tell my banker what I want to do with this, they run it, approved, we’re done,’ and then something happens, will I want to tell 50 people how bad my experience was?”

Pickerell said the webinar is intended to let women, veteran and minority-owned businesses know about another resource available to them. He said he talks about the program every time he talks to people applying for a loan, and the fact that they don’t already know about it tells him that word isn’t out yet.

“Women, veterans, minorities that may not have necessarily ever qualified for a loan, it gives them better loan to value. It also gives a much better rate. It doesn’t have that additional cost to it. There’s just lots of great benefits,” Pickerell said.

Jo Ann DiMaggio May, director of the Illinois Small Business Development Center for the Metro East, said the webinar came about because they’ve been working as a state navigator for the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, and Pickerell wanted to collaborate on a session to go over new enhancements coming to the program and share that information with borrowers.

“We have been really helping promote the Advantage Illinois program and getting more lenders and small businesses involved in the program, and just building the awareness of the participation loan program and all the benefits,” DiMaggio May said.

DiMaggio May said the participation loan program with Advantage Illinois helps financial institutions feel more secure in financing the borrower because they have commitment from the state to assist in covering a portion of the loan.

“[It] allows the business to get the operating capital and equipment or any of those things that they might need to start or grow their business,” DiMaggio May said.

The webinar will take place at noon Sept. 29 in the MUC. For more information, visit the SBDC website.

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