Florida launches stimulus program aimed at job creation

Florida Gov. Charlie Crist on Tuesday launched a new economic stimulus plan for small businesses, geared to give companies resources and incentives to expand and create new jobs despite the economic downturn.

The $10 million so-called gardening program is patterned after a similar venture in Littleton, Colo., some 20 years ago.

Dale Brill, the state's chief economic development officer, touted the plan Tuesday in a meeting with economic development experts. He said the money would be provided in the form of 2 percent-interest loans for five years, of up to $250,000 each, to businesses having 10 to 99 employees.

With the banking industry unwilling to extend credit, Brill said, it's critical for the state to make money available. ''We've got to do something,'' Brill said. "Not only will this move the needle for some companies ... but it will add a new tool in our toolbox.''

If the program is approved, $8.5 million will be available for loans, with the remaining $1.5 million available in technical assistance money to help growing companies.

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