Warwick carries the reputation of being the state’s second largest city, but when it comes to Small Business Administration loans, it ranks first, Mayor Scott Avedisian crowed Tuesday.
But while statistically that is noteworthy, it’s the impact of those 46 loans totaling $10.7 million that Avedisian and Cranston Mayor Allan Fung underscored at a press conference at Frank Shatz & Co. on Dewey Street, off Airport Road.
Randy Shatz, who runs the cabinet making and wood finishing company his father, Frank, started in the 1950s, has used SBA-backed loans to acquire software and machinery and for employee training. The company that started with one full-time employee now has 14 full-time workers. The senior Shatz is one of them.
He was found on the production floor Tuesday afternoon. With fine sawdust coating his clothes, Frank took a break to talk with a visiting entourage of SBA officials, the media and Jose Monteiro of Navigant Credit Union. Frank recalled buying his first table saw from Sears and Roebuck at the age of 14. It was the start to a business that he operated from his garage for more than a decade.
Today, he still makes a practice of calling customers after delivery of a custom-made piece of furniture to be certain that Shatz & Co. has met expectations.
“Sometimes I feel like I’m brothering them and it’s an annoying call,” he said.
But more often than not, people are receptive and appreciate the concern. Frank said, of his two sons, Randy was the one who gravitated to the business and is a skilled woodworker but Randy prefers to be in the office. It’s an arrangement that has worked out.
Wearing a suit, Randy was in front of the cameras as the two mayors, joined by SBA District Director Mark Hayward, highlighted the importance of capital to business and the economy, as did Cranston’s mayor.
“So small business can [have] access to capital, this is what job creation should be about, getting the adequate resources they need,” said Fung.
Twenty-two SBA-backed loans, totaling $5.8 million, were made to Cranston businesses. Cranston ranked second statewide in the loan total for the 2013 fiscal year. Statewide, the SBA guaranteed 317 loans, for a total of $68.6 million, said Hayward. Under a new program that should help stimulate business, Hayward said loans of up to $150,000 would be “fee free,” saving the borrower up to $3,000. Additionally, as of Jan. 1, the SBA is introducing a fee free program for veterans for loans up to $350,000.
Hayward said the beauty of the SBA guarantee, ranging from 50 to 85 percent, is that it gives lenders the opportunity to take a chance with businesses they believe will make it.
As Avedisian observed, local institutions that know the businesses and the people are among the greatest SBA partners. BankRI and Coastway Community Bank lead the state in 7(a) loans with 61 and 45, respectively. The total of loans made by those two institutions are $9 million and $6.3 million, respectively.
“Sometimes, without the SBA, we wouldn’t be able to do a loan,” said Navigant’s Monteiro.
Lauren Slocum, president of the Central Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce, joined in the press conference and called the role of the SBA “a critical piece for a number of businesses.” She said working with the city is also essential for new businesses.
Avedisian said SBA support of businesses is extremely important to the state “as we work to improve our local economy and ensure future job growth and economic development.”