Thom Huynh, Jesus Samboy Rodriguez and Ignacious Okonkwo may
come from different corners of the globe but on Monday, September
14, all three had one thing in common: they are the first recipients
of an innovative loan program for businesses in Hartford's Parkville
Huynh, owner of the NGOC PHAT Jewelry Store on Park Street and
a native of Vietnam, Rodriguez, a native of the Dominican Republic
and owner of Video Cinema on New Park Avenue, and Okonkwo, a
native Nigerian and owner of Earth Design Associates will be
receiving a total of $220,000 through the Parkville Business
Development Loan Program.
The program is a collaboration between People's Bank, the City
of Hartford and the Parkville Business Association (PBA). The
program is designed to increase economic expansion, employment
opportunities and neighborhood stability in Parkville.
People's is making available $3 million in low-interest loans,
the City is putting up $250,000 for guarantees and credit enhancements
and the PBA is providing technical assistance to business owners
in the loan application process. The minimum loan is $35,000
and the maximum is $250,000, said Mohamoud Ahmet, PBA Merchant
At a ceremony on Monday at Huynh's jewelry store marking the
official opening of the loan program, Mayor Mike Peters said
it could become a model for the rest of the city. "We have
to make sure this works properly so that we can take it on the
road to North Hartford and to South Hartford," he said.
Huynh said he will be using his loan to double the size of his
store. His son, Anh, said the expansion is necessary due to increased
business since the store opened about five years ago. NGOC PHAT
caters almost exclusively to Asian-Americans and draws customers
from as far away as New York and Boston. "Look at this place,
it's just too small. On Saturdays sometimes we have over 20 people
in here. It's packed, you can hardly move," Anh said. In
addition to its retail operations, NGOC PHAT also manufactures
about half of the jewelry it sells on the premises.
Rodriguez said he will be using the loan to hire two new employees,
increase his inventory and modernize his store on New Park Avenue.
The two new employees are good news for Rodriguez, who said he
works an average of 60 hours per week and has not had a vacation
since opening his store in 1987. He added that the loan program
marks a "new beginning" for Parkville, which he described
as "the most vibrant neighborhood in Hartford, there's so
much diversity here."
Okonkwo said his $80,000 loan will help him to hire an assistant
and buy more equipment in order to get more business for his
civil and environmental engineering firm. While thanking People's
Bank and the City for instituting the loan program, Okonkwo also
said he could use more assistance to get new contracts. Turning
to Mayor Peters, he said, "The City has been helping us
but we need some more help."
Ahmed also said more needs to be done to complete the revitalization
of the Parkville business community, such as lowering property
taxes but he added that the loan program is a big step in the
"This shows that private-public partnerships work,"
Ahmet said he was also proud of the diversity of the first three
loan recipients, which he says is characteristic of the neighborhood.
"That's why we call it Parkville U.S.A., everything in the
U.S. is right here in Parkville."