The Greater Fremont Development Council (GFDC) announced the establishment of a new revolving loan fund designed to spur entrepreneurship and small business growth at a press conference on Friday.
The fund was established and named in honor of longtime local businessman and philanthropist Marv Welstead who played a pivotal role in the creation of the original Industrial Foundation in Fremont—which eventually grew into what is now known as the GFDC.
“Marv is a fitting person to celebrate, just recently the Chamber celebrated his induction into the Business Hall of Fame and it was a great reminder for all of us that Marv was not only a part of so many organizations—but that he was at the beginning of those organizations,” Bill Vobejda, GFDC Board Chair, said.
Welstead is known for his dedicated service to helping those impacted by Alzheimer’s and to furthering research in order to find a cure through the Fremont Area Alzheimer’s Collaboration which he founded.
Welstead has also been heavily involved in numerous organizations throughout the years, including serving on Fremont Area Community Foundation board of directors since its beginning, serving as President of the Fremont Area Chamber of Commerce and also President of the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
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He was a member Midland University Board of Trustees and was a charter member and president of the Fremont Industrial Foundation. He was also a charter member and treasurer of the Community Chest (now called the Fremont Area United Way), co-chair of the Fremont Area Art Association’s building campaign, and is a life member of the Shriners.
The Welstead Fund was established with $60,000 in seed money approved by the GFDC Board of Directors in addition to a $1,000 contributing gift from Welstead.
The fund is a revolving loan fund that is designed to assist local and recruited entrepreneurs in their efforts to create and grow small business opportunities and operations in the Greater Fremont and Dodge County area.
According to GFDC Executive Director Garry Clark, the Welstead Fund will serve as a resource for local entrepreneurs and small businesses, complementing existing funding options from local financial institutions as well as the City of Fremont’s Local Option Economic Development Fund or LB840 fund.
“We need to continue to provide options for entrepreneurs and existing business owners as they continue to come up with new business concepts and expansion efforts in the Greater Fremont community,” he said. “Marv helped to establish the GFDC organization and many of the early business recruitment efforts are tied to his leadership and support. In naming this fund after Marv, we hope to sustain that legacy for many years to come.”
During the press conference, Mayor Scott Getzschman stressed the importance of having a fund—like the newly created Welstead Fund—to specifically support small businesses and entrepreneurs.
He said that while funding opportunities like those provided through the Northeast Nebraska Economic Development District, LB840, TIF, and Economic Enhancement fund often provide help to large projects and businesses don’t always extend to small operations and start-up businesses.
“This will make a true impact as these small businesses come forward to start or grow their business in Fremont,” he said. “The challenge is when anyone is in business they may have start-up money and they maybe have a little money to cover the first couple months, but as time goes on things can slow down. That’s when these dollars become important. It may allow a business to make payroll and keep going, it may allow them to buy inventory to keep selling.”
Vobejda also spoke about the role incentive programs like the Welstead Fund play in terms of continuing the growth of Fremont and the area.
“I think we’ve all come to understand and believe in the role that economic incentives play. They are not the end-all, but they are important,” he said. “They can give Fremont a competitive advantage over other locations and sometimes its that last piece that helps a business become a reality or to grow a little bit.”
The GFDC is open to other contributions to continue to grow the $61,000 revolving loan fund, which will officially roll out later this fall.