Date of Award

5-2013

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of City and Regional Planning (MCRP)

Legacy Department

City and Regional Planning

Advisor

Dr. Caitlin Dyckman

Committee Member

Tim Green

Committee Member

Dr. Lori Dickes

Committee Member

Dr. Cliff Ellis

Abstract

Economic development has evolved since the Great Depression era in the United States from a stance of pure “smokestack chasing” to a more diverse set of strategies aimed at business retention and expansion. One method that has been successfully used domestically and internationally is the use of microloans to finance small businesses. One major component of microfinance strategies used abroad that allows for lower transaction costs is the use of Peer Group Lending Programs (PGLPs). This paper first reviews the cited social, political, and financial reasons for the lack of such programs in U.S. microfinance initiatives. It simultaneously addresses why these American characteristics may not be as limiting as touted to be and proposes a hypothesis that certain groups may be well aligned to take advantage of a PGLP financing mechanism. Beginning farmers associated with farm incubators are targeted as a group for such consideration due to their affiliation with a local food system, the expected social cohesion among them, and their likely need for alternative means of financing. This hypothesis is tested with a survey of such farmers and analysis of their responses. The results indicate that there is some support for PGLPs amongst incubator farmers. Based on the survey responses, those who are heavily reliant upon farmers and mentors only within their incubator and those that are willing to borrow from other sources represent the most promising targets of a successful PGLP financing strategy.

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