For years, Pablo Oliveira dreamed of buying a property to house his high-end linen and furniture rental company, Nuage Designs, which has created settings for such glamorous events as the weddings of Carrie Underwood and Chelsea Clinton.
A few months ago, that dream came true, when Oliveira purchased a warehouse across the street from his current Miami location. He is now renovating the loft-like space with the help of a $2.1 million, 25-year small business loan.
“It allows me to own my own space as opposed to renting, and that will decrease my costs for infrastructure and allow me to build equity with time,” said Oliveira, who secured a U.S. Small Business Administration-guaranteed loan from Wells Fargo.
For small businesses like Oliveira’s, a loan can be the critical key to growing a business, as well as the kindling to ignite an operation.
Take Harold Scott’s fledgling Great Scott Security, which manufactures window guards in Hollywood that can open quickly in case of need.
When he was 13, Scott’s stepfather perished in a Georgia house fire because he couldn’t escape through heavy window bars. Scott made it his mission to fix the problem.
“I promised myself I would dedicate all my time to working on a solution,” said Scott, 60.
Now retired from a 23-year career in the U.S. Justice Department, Scott recently secured a $7,500 microloan from Partners for Self Employment. He used it to buy a computer and pay for marketing and other business expenses for his quick-release window guards, which have met national, state and Miami-Dade County fire safety codes.
During the depths of the recession, business owners often griped that gaining access to capital was their biggest hurdle. Saddled with bad loans, many banks were wary of making new ones. At the same time, both the value of collateral and the creditworthiness of many borrowers tumbled.
Now, at last, banks are starting to open their pocketbooks again, experts say, though lending is still not on par with pre-recession levels.
“There is no question that small business borrowing declined as a result of the recession and has yet to recover to pre-crisis levels,” said Richard Brown, chief economist for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., via email. “According to the Federal Reserve, total loans to noncorporate businesses and farms stood at just under $3.8 trillion in September, which remains below the peak of about $4.1 trillion in the fourth quarter of 2008.”
Signs of Growth
In South Florida, more businesses are applying for loans and getting approvals from banks, according to lenders, officials at government agencies and leaders of organizations that help small business owners secure loans.
“Lenders are expressing a greater interest than they have in the past few years in terms of meeting the needs of the small business community,” said Marjorie Weber, Miami-Dade Chapter Chair of SCORE, which helps business owners put loan packages together and refers them to bankers.
Loan figures are indeed rising. During the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2012, SBA-guaranteed loans were up in both Miami-Dade and Broward counties, according to the SBA. In fiscal 2012, 449 loans were approved in Miami-Dade, totaling $213.3 million, up from 426 loans for $154.4 million in 2011. In Broward, 262 loans for $91.4 million were approved in fiscal 2012, compared to 257 loans for $102.4 million in 2011.