During its 25-year history, the MIDC has created economic development programs for The Associated’s Israeli sister cities, including Ashkelon since the founding of the relationship in 2003. Ashkelon is the southernmost Israeli city on the Mediterranean coast. The MIDC launched a series of small business loan funds to help companies grow and create jobs. The original fund was $300,000 and provided small loans up to $10,000 for Ashkelon based small businesses. Over 75 loans were made.
In response to Israel’s conflict with Gaza in 2014 when businesses in the city were closed for over 50 days, the MIDC created an Emergency Small Business Loan Fund to help the companies get reestablished. The Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) worked with Israeli banking partners to provide a 7:1 match to the $225,000 raised by the MIDC.
“The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore and the Maryland/Israel Development Center (MIDC) are committed to continuing to help Ashkelon businesses so they can grow and create jobs for the Ashkelon community, as we have been doing since the Baltimore-Ashkelon Partnership began” stated Jack Zager, MIDC Board Member who serves as Baltimore-Ashkelon Partnership Economic Development Committee Co-Chair. Special thanks to the Hebrew Free Loan Association, individual community members, the Associated and JAFI who have all contributed to the success of the Baltimore Ashkelon Loan Fund.
“The Baltimore Ashkelon Loan Fund, operated by the Jewish Agency with the assistance and funding of The Associated and MIDC, has had a great impact on Ashkelon’s businesses in a very short time”, said Amir Sznajderman, Director, JAFI’s Economic Development and Loan Funds Division. The fund was initiated with two main targets, to help with the establishment and growth of existing businesses, as well as to help businesses that were affected by Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014. These loans were designed for working capital to bridge financing gaps created by the slow activity due to the security situation. Zager added, “we are particularly pleased by the very low loan default rate which is important for all involved and provides impetus for future loans”.
To date, a total of 29 loan applications totaling $1,320,000 were approved by the Loan Fund Committee, chaired by Eliezer Priel with Baltimore’s Partnership Director Sigal Ariely, JAFI and bank representatives. The one to seven financial match JAFI arranged with the banks enabled the Loan Fund to leverage the $200,000 initial funding to make a substantially larger impact, creating new job opportunities for the people of Ashkelon and supporting businesses that were impacted by the security situation.
Below are three examples of how the Baltimore Ashkelon Fund Program is working to promote business and economic development to existingnand new businesses.
About Balaban Nursery
The Balaban farm is a family business established in 1985 and sells bushes, climbers, fruit trees, decorative trees, leafy plants and cereal vegetation of different sizes and in a range of containers. The nursery also produces Australian and Mediterranean plants which suit both European and Mediterranean climates. The family applied to the loan fund for assistance to help them manage the difficulties with running the farm, and overcome the losses in the wake of the Protective Edge military campaign in Gaza, and the security tension both before and after the war.
About Bar Code Productions
Bar Code Productions, created in 2014, offers its customers a range of services relating to event production from the conceptual stage to implementation, photography, DJ and music services, hall design and any other element connected to event production. The Baltimore Ashkelon Loan fund was able to help this start-up business with a needed loan for working capital.
About Yemini Farm
Yemini Farm engages in the cultivation of pest-free leafy vegetables, for the ultra-orthodox community. The crops include lettuce and various green vegetables, such as parsley, coriander, dill, celery, chard and various kinds of cabbage. One of Yemini Farms is in the Ashdod regions and it is targeted at the local ultra-orthodox community. The new loan from the Baltimore Ashkelon Loan Fund helped build the new hothouses.