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Entrepreneurs in Merced County, located in central California's San Joaquin Valley, are facing dire times. Not long ago, the area was booming. Developers added an estimated 60,000 housing units between 2002 and 2008, anticipating explosive growth from people commuting to jobs in the Bay Area or working at the new campus the University of California opened in Merced in 2005. When the national housing market crashed, nearly all of Merced's new wealth was concentrated in those homes. Local authorities such as the Merced County Economic Development Corp. (Mcedco) and the Los Banos Redevelopment Agency, along with the local Small Business Administration outpost, are counting on entrepreneurs to help create jobs and restore the region's economic health. But what small business owners need most is immediate financial relief.
Flip through this slide show to meet entrepreneurs who could revive the California community—if they had financing. Then tune in to an audio slide show narrated by the reporter.