The federal Small Business Administration closed the doors of its post-Castle Rock Fire office in Hailey yesterday, Sept. 20, but it will continue to accept loan applications from businesses impacted by the fire through June 11, 2008.
"The application period is still open," said Mark Randle, an SBA communications specialist based in Sacremento, Calif. "People can get in touch with us via the Internet or our 800 number and submit those applications."
During the two-week period the office was open in Hailey, from Sept. 13 through Sept. 27, 113 applications were issued to area business owners. Of those, 35 completed applications were returned, and one has been approved thus far. Randle said the application approved was for a $19,000 loan.
The applications are dealt with on a first-come, first-served basis, Randle said. They are forwarded to the agency's processing center in the order they're received.
"It's a loan for working capital for overhead needs that the business is not able to pay as a result of the fire," Randle said. "That could be rent, payroll, those types of things. They're just for the loss of the working capital that resulted from the loss of sales."
The loans are offered at 4 percent interest and are issued using treasury funds through the SBA, Randle said. Loan terms can be for up to 30 years, and maturity is based on the financial condition of the affected business.
The SBA loans were made possible after Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter signed an economic disaster declaration in the wake of the 48,000-acre Castle Rock Fire, which engulfed the Wood River Valley in smoke and threatened to overrun homes during one of the area's peak tourism seasons.
The lightning-caused fire started Aug. 16 west of Ketchum before spreading in all directions. In the end, no structures were lost.
Ketchum's annual Labor Day celebration of its mining heritage was canceled, as were a myriad of associated tourism events.
Idaho Senate Minority Leader Clint Stennett, D-Ketchum, said earlier this month that at no time in recent memory had Blaine County come up against the type of economic angst the fire caused. He said SBA loans were sought in 1977 following a winter drought that severely impacted the ski season.
"This is the closest we have been to that in 30 years," he said.
Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber & Visitors Bureau Executive Director Carol Waller said her agency knew businesses were suffering.
"We're working to do all we can to help businesses recover from the fire's impact," she said. "Especially from the loss of revenue over the Labor Day weekend."
For information on the loans, call the SBA at (800) 659-2955 or visit its Web site at www.sba.gov.