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The Progress Fund lends a helping hand on Main Street

Whitewater rafts and canoes aren’t the type of collateral that traditional lending institutions look for when small businesses seek financing. Finance professionals would rather see real estate or equipment on the loan application. But David Kahley, chief executive and co-founder of The Progress Fund, a Westmoreland County community development lender, said his fund had helped boost the tourism industry in southwestern Pennsylvania and adjoining states by making loans to recreation enterprises even when banks wouldn’t touch them. The Greensburg-based fund has loaned $35 million in 14 years — primarily to tourist-oriented businesses such as restaurants, bed and breakfast lodgings, and outdoor adventure providers in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland and Ohio. Last week, the fund was one of only eight organizations in the country and two in Pennsylvania to receive funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program. Progress received $600,000 — the largest award of any in the country — that includes $500,000 in loan financing and a $100,000 grant.

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