Office commute woes got you down? Imagine walking out your back door, along a white picket fence, past a sparkling pool, and directly into your office!

For Camilo Montoya, that dream became a reality after his auto repair shop was approved for a loan designed specifically for minority business owners.

Just last year, Camilo Montoya and Sandra Murillo were living in an apartment in Catasauqua. Camilo ran his automotive repair shop out of a rented garage a ways from their residence while his wife, Sandra launched her fledgling office cleaning service.

Business for Montoya Roadside Service was steady, and Camilo was searching for a way to expand the shop’s repair capacity, which would mean eventually hiring another full-time mechanic – and possible support staff.  Simultaneously, Camilo’s wife required more space as she was eager to conduct her cleaning business out of a dedicated home office.

While Camillo and Sandra were uncertain how to secure the resources and the support they needed to grow their businesses, they had a friend who recently faced a similar predicament.   In 2018, insurance brokerage owner Rafael De la Hoz hoped to move his State Farm office into a larger facility to hire more agents and support staff. He received help in the form of a loan from the Allentown Economic Development Corporation (AEDC) through the “PMBDA” loan fund, a program specifically designed to help minority business owners secure financial assistance.  With a loan in the amount of $170,000, De La Hoz acquired and renovated a building on Allentown’s 4th street, where he now operates his agency. Having personal experience with the PMBDA loan fund, De la Hoz informed his friends of the program and connected them with AEDC to inquire about their own business needs.

“The Montoyas represent everything the PMBDA program was created for. This smart, determined, hardworking family is pursuing the American dream, and AEDC is glad we were able to help them achieve it.”

Approval and Acquisition

In December of 2020, Camilo began working with AEDC’s Program Manager, David Dunn and applied for financing. Once Dunn prepared the paperwork, AEDC’s Loan Committee and Board reviewed, commented on, and ultimately approved Montoya’s application. By the end of February 2021, Camillo and Sandra closed on 1095 6th Street: a property in North Catasauqua, scaling a third of an acre. The property included both a commercial garage facility and a newly renovated home for the family.

As part of the loan terms, the borrowers agreed to live in the residence and operate the business out of the adjacent garage for the duration of the loan. AEDC extended a low-cost fixed rate over 15 years to finance the project. Of the total purchase price, AEDC financed $75,000 plus closing costs, QNB bank provided $288,000, in addition to the Montoyas’ personal contributions, for a complete move-in cost of $423,000.  Throughout the process, the couple enlisted Howard Leiberman of Business and Community Financing Solutions as their business/loan agent. Leiberman acted as the couple’s representative to help them navigate the finance process since English is not their first language. Leiberman also aided in gathering data for the loan application and permit documentation.

Dreams Become Reality

For Camilo and Sandra, their new live/work setup is a dream come true. Camilo cherishes his “commute” to and from the business every day. He spends his days in the automotive shop, repairing vehicles and motorcycles, and he’s thrilled to finally have space to expand his business. Even more so, he‘s grateful to be able to walk across his lawn, say hello to his wife while she’s working, or give a quick pet to their family dog, Max.

From start to finish, the PMBDA loan process took less than two months before Camilo and Sandra closed on their new property. After closing, the couple was able to move into their new home and begin operating Montoya’s Roadside Service auto repair shop. AEDC’s Program Manager Dunn says, “The Montoyas represent everything the PMBDA program was created for. This smart, determined, hardworking family is pursuing the American dream, and AEDC is glad we were able to help them achieve it.”

So, what is the PMBDA Loan Fund?

The Pennsylvania Minority Business Development Authority (PMBDA) loan fund aims to stimulate the growth and expansion of minority-owned businesses. Loans of up to 90 percent of the eligible project cost (or $250,000, whichever is less) can be used for machinery and equipment costs, land costs to purchase and renovate, or new construction. Funds can also be used for building acquisition, construction, rehabilitation, engineering, architectural, legal, and other related costs. After funds have been disbursed, recipients are required to demonstrate one full-time job for every $50,000 borrowed in support of the program’s emphasis on job creation.

Allentown Economic Development Corporation (AEDC) has offered the PMBDA loan program for over a decade as a part of its Urban Made initiative. The business outreach and retention program focuses on strategic planning, real estate needs, identifying growth opportunities, and financial assistance for business owners, manufacturers, and entrepreneurs. Over the past few years, AEDC has become the second-largest administrator of these loan funds, surpassed only by the commonwealth itself. Since 2017, AEDC has funded seven PMBDA loans totaling over $1 million in new financing throughout the Lehigh Valley.

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Lauren Matthews