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State Loan Helps Keep Drum Firm in Oxnard : Business: The manufacturer can now pay for equipment to cut its air emissions and meet California standards.


An Oxnard drum manufacturing business that planned to move out of California is staying put, with the aid of a new state loan that helps it meet environmental regulations.

Last year, after 21 years of making drums in Southern California, Don and Lorrie Lombardi had decided to move to Nevada because they could no longer keep up with new pollution regulations.

But a new state loan program will help the Lombardis and 10 other small businesses stay in California. On Thursday, state Treasurer Kathleen Brown traveled to Oxnard to give the Lombardis a $60,000 check that they will use to pay for equipment that will help lower the firm's air emissions by 33% and meet state standards.

"This is a win-win-win situation," Brown said. "It's good for the Lombardis, who are staying in California, it's good for business and it's good for the environment."

Called California Loans for Environmental Assistance Now, the loan program is the first of its kind in the country, Brown said. It was set up to keep pollution-prone small businesses environmentally safe without forcing them out of business or out of the state, said Brown, who also heads the California Pollution Control Financing Authority.

The Lombardis used their loan to buy a spray booth, drying room and dust-collection system for Drum Workshop Inc., which they described as one of the last remaining makers of drums with a hand-rubbed lacquer finish in the United States. Drum Workshop drums are used by musicians who play with Michael Jackson, Madonna, Elton John and the Beach Boys, Don Lombardi said.

"The most important thing," Don Lombardi said, "is that we've seen government working with small businesses. We're a good example to show that it can be done." Lombardi said he hopes to expand his work force from 45 to 70 employees by the end of the year. "I wouldn't be doing that without the loan," he said.

The loan program is a joint effort involving the treasurer's office, the state Trade and Commerce Agency and the South Coast Air Quality Management District, which monitors pollution in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino and Orange counties.

By the end of the program's first year in April, 11 businesses will receive loans totaling $1 million, Brown said. Interest on the loans, which are payable in seven years, is 10%. All of the loans granted so far have gone to businesses in Southern California, though applications are being accepted from throughout the state, a spokesman from Brown's office said.

Fund raising for the program began in 1984 when the California Pollution Control Financing Authority began collecting fees from big businesses applying for tax-exempt bonds to pay for state-mandated programs, said Annette Porini, the authority's executive director.

"It's sort of like Robin Hood," Porini said. "We're taking the money from big companies like Shell and giving it to little companies."

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