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SWIF helps local businesses

HUTCHINSON -- Roberto Lopez recently received loan assistance from the Southwest Initiative Foundation's (SWIF) Microenterprise Loan Program to purchase additional tire and vehicle repair service equipment and add new tire sales to his existing auto repair business in Worthington.

Lopez will offer all major brand-name tires. He will also continue to offer used tires and complete auto repair services, including transmission work and 24-hour towing service.

Lopez has been in business for more than 20 years, beginning his business in Texas and moving to Worthington about 10 years ago. After a fire destroyed his shop in 2008, Lopez purchased the building in his new location at 404 Oxford St. Lopez Auto serves a variety of customers in the Worthington area, maintaining a good clientele of business and individual customers. Lopez Auto Repair can be reached at 727-2954 or after hours at 370-1444.

Additionally, Shumet Felegu and wife Asefash Hailu recently received loan assistance from the same SWIF pogram to expand their Ethiopian restaurant, Queen Sheba. A specialty grocery store will be added to the restaurant, located in the former Thompson Hotel at 304 10th St. in downtown Worthington.

Queen Sheba's grocery will concentrate on staple items including flours, beans, dried vegetables, spices, rice, Ethiopian coffee and tea, fruits, vegetables and special dairy products. The grocery and restaurant is open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Adequate seating is available in the restaurant for small parties or business gatherings. Queen Sheba can be reached at 376-5102.

The Queen Sheba grocery project is a joint lending effort of the Worthington Regional Economic Development Corporation, the Southwest Regional Development Commission in Slayton and SWIF. Proceeds from the loans will be used for equipment and inventory.

SWIF's Microenterprise Loan Program offers loans of up to $35,000 for starting or expanding for-profit small businesses located within the 18 counties of southwest Minnesota that have a need for additional sources of funds. In addition, technical assistance is available from SWIF as needed for the length of the loan. The program receives funding assistance from the U.S. Small Business Administration, as well as from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Southwest Initiative Foundation is a regional community foundation dedicated to advancing southwest Minnesota through leadership, relationship-building, program development and philanthropy. The Foundation has contributed more than $47 million through its grant and loan programs in southwest Minnesota. It has also helped more than 450 businesses start or expand through its business finance programs, which has created or retained more than 7,500 jobs. To learn more, visit