On April 10, 2006 US Congressmen Jim Kolbe, Appropriations Subcommittee for Foreign Operations, Congressman Scott Garrett, Ambassador John Danilovich, CEO of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), and Ambassador John Tefft, US Ambassador to Georgia, visited the Marneuli Business Service Center to get acquainted with the business services provided by this center to its clients. The recently completed “Marneuli Business Service Center project” was implemented within the framework of CHF International’s USAID-funded Georgia Employment and Infrastructure Initiative (GEII).
The Marneuli Business Service Center staff briefly explained the history and background of the project and the role of the center in the development of the local economy in the region. This particular day was a usual working day at the center – three clients sought consultations on credit opportunities, customs and taxation issues, ways to start-up new businesses, or how to sustain businesses that already exist. Congressmen Kolbe was given the opportunity to see the process in action as these interested clients raised questions about how they could start a business, what the main constraints in developing in the local economy were, and how they deal with local authorities.
“CHF International’s Georgia Employment and Infrastructure Initiative is one of the ideal USAID-supported programs that compliments larger infrastructure and economic development investments being undertaken in Georgia by the Millennium Challenge Corporation. Congressional delegation members were positively impressed by CHF / USAID’s support to the Marnieuli Business Service Center and the positive economic impact it is already having on thousands of entrepreneurs in the region,” commented Denny Robertson, USAID - Caucasus Mission Director.
Since completing the project in January 2006, the Marnieuli Business Service Center has been actively conducting operations from its new office location. The Credit Cooperative currently operates with 67 members and has made 13 loans valued at nearly $4,000 this year alone. Membership is primarily composed of local farmers, giving them the opportunity to obtain credit for working capital, inputs and operational expenses at a highly-competitive interest rate. The credit cooperative is targeting membership to rise to 120 by the end of the calendar year, and potentially expand to the Samegrelo Region.
As well, business advisory services and tax advice by qualified experts are provided from this facility to a host of clients, including business owners, local farmers, taxpayers, and credit cooperative members themselves. Services include training and technical assistance in business planning, management, marketing, agro-technologies, credit referrals, and taxation and customs issues. A substantial stream of MBC’s business comes from referrals from the local tax authorities on preparation of tax and customs documentation.
The Marnieuli Business Service Center is a sound example of a sustainable local institution providing demand-driven services and a steady stream of revenues. Credit capital among the 67 members currently stands at over 3,000 USD and revenues of over $7,000 are generated through business advisory services and credit re-flows. With new facilities and ambitious plans for expansion, these numbers are anticipated to grow substantially over the coming year and beyond.