Tyler Glynn will be the first to admit that it was a long and difficult process to pull together all the pieces necessary to set up the Brainerd Lakes Area Economic Development Corp. Unified Fund, but two years after the established the fund, the program is proving that it’s doing what it was intended to do: create jobs and help local businesses grow.

Glynn administers the Unified Fund as an economic development officer for BLAEDC. The Unified Fund is a $2.9 million pool of revolving funds that can be loaned to local businesses based on their needs and meeting certain requirements. The money came from the cities of Brainerd, Baxter, Crosslake and Deerwood, Crow Wing County, Consolidated Telephone Company, Crow Wing Power, BLAEDC and Crow Wing County HRA, each of which had their own smaller pool of money for loans that were mostly underused. BLAEDC convinced them to pool all those funds and allow the agency to manage them, making them more readily available.

It wasn’t an easy sell, but the efforts are paying off. To date, nine businesses – located in nearly every community in Crow Wing County – have received loans totaling more than $839,000. Those businesses have created 47 new jobs and retained another 47 jobs, with the average loan being about $80,000. The loans have been for a variety of things, including tanks for brewing beer, computer technology, real estate, retail inventory and even personal watercraft. As the loans are paid back, the money goes back into the fund to be loaned out again.

“The loans have been performing really well,” Glynn said. “The companies we’ve helped so far are showing that they’re successful as a result of the program.”

One of the loan recipients was Al Schmidt, owner of Paradigm Automotive Performance in Brainerd. His auto repair shop does everything from windshield wipers to wheel alignments, and everything in between, including body work, custom-built engines and restorations. The Schmidt family’s racing background also gives them expertise as a full speed shop, helping racers with roll cages, dyno services and fabrications.

For 12 years, Schmidt rented his 8,000-square-foot shop at 310 W. Laurel St., with intentions of eventually buying it. But when that day came last year, he found that his bank was hesitant to loan him all the funds he needed to complete the purchase, but suggested he talk to BLAEDC about a Unified Fund loan.

“Buying the building gave us some security to plan for the future,” Schmidt said. “We were able to hire three new employees within the last year, which brings us up to full staff. We were also able to buy the land between our building and the (Mississippi) River, which we’ll be developing within the next five years.”

In addition to Paradigm, nine other businesses have received loans through the Unified Fund and two new loans have been approved but are awaiting funding.

The other nine loans are as follows.

  • Gullview Technologies in Baxter purchased new computers and software for a growing workforce.

  • Outdoors Insight in Crosslake purchased inventory and added new staff to increase production of the Aqua Vu Underwater Video Camera.

  • 5Rocks Distillery Company in Brainerd purchased its building on Washington Street.

  • Dockside Rental in Nisswa purchased six new personal watercraft to rent.

  • Found: A Curated Life in Nisswa purchased inventory for its retail store and made improvements to its new building.

  • Jack Pine Brewery in Baxter bought new tanks for brewing beer.

  • Modified Tool in Emily helped an employee purchase the business from its previous owner. Victual in Crosby paid for improvements to its property.

  • GreenForest Recycling in Brainerd purchased recycling equipment.

Established in 1985, BLAEDC is a community-driven, nonprofit organization created to preserve and enhance the area’s economic base by expanding business, building community and growing jobs in Crow Wing County.