Based on a new impact report commissioned by the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) and conducted by the Sorenson Impact Center, the $12 million Utah Leads Together Small Business Bridge Loan Program helped 1,150 small businesses and nonprofits with 50 or fewer employees across the state weather the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the second of a series of two impact reports, the Center analyzed the geographical reach and types of businesses that benefited from the program, how funding was used, and whether applicants secured other forms of financial support. Throughout this summer, the Center surveyed businesses and nonprofits that benefited from the bridge loan program — 32% of bridge loan recipients responded — and identified the following:

  • 27% of loans were deployed to small businesses in rural counties (the goal was 25%) 
  • Most Utah businesses used the Bridge Loan to maintain their payroll (30%); pay their business rent, mortgage, or utilities (27%); and pay for other business operating costs.
  • Over 66% of businesses were able to keep or increase staff hours and avoid layoffs and furloughs.
  • Approximately 13% of the businesses receiving loans were owned by Black, Indigenous, or other people of color. It is estimated that BIPOC businesspeople own 7% of Utah businesses.
  • Approximately 33% of businesses receiving Bridge Loans were owned by women, which is on par with state averages.
  • While the U.S. Census reports approximately 5.4% of Utah’s residents have veteran status, 9% of business owners that received the Bridge Loan were veterans.

The survey conducted by the Center also identified areas where businesses and nonprofits need additional support to navigate ongoing instability. More than one-third of companies (35%) identified new business grants as being helpful, with 18% of respondents identifying flexible loans as being helpful moving forward. Respondents also identified long-term low-interest capital, loan forgiveness, and lending options to support capital improvements, such as upgrades to air filtration and sanitation systems, as helpful.

Geoff Davis, CEO of the Sorenson Impact Center, said: “We’re proud to partner with the Governor’s Office of Economic Development to measure the reach and impact of the Utah Leads Together Small Business Bridge Loan Program. This initiative is part of the Center’s broader work to support an equitable recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“Based on our analysis of the program’s success, we have to commend GOED for its commitment to fairness and equity in disbursing funds. They exceeded expectations on support for rural communities and had a clear commitment and focus on supporting businesses owned by Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, as well as women entrepreneurs and businesses owned by veterans. Targeted and purposeful interventions of this nature save jobs and businesses.” 

“Thank you to the Sorenson Impact Center for the work they put into creating the second report for the Utah Leads Together Small Business Bridge Loan Program,” said Val Hale, GOED’s executive director. “The report shows that the program was able to help many businesses in need, and we’re grateful it was able to make an impact on so many.”  

See the full report here.