“We’re seeing some really good numbers this year — we’re up for the first quarter, both in loan numbers and dollars, over last year in our district,” said Jonel Hein, the SBA’s deputy district director, whose region includes 24 counties south of Orlando. “We find it as an indication that the recovery is still continuing. The more we see loans increasing, whether dollar amounts or the number of loans, it’s a positive sign for South Florida.”
Among the loans SBA guarantees are those for start-ups, equipment, commercial property and debt refinancing. About 75 percent of loans go to existing businesses, with the remainder going to start-ups of less than two years.
“There’s a lot we can do,” Hein said. “It’s whether the borrower can find a lender to say, ‘Yes.’ ”
Just watch kids jumping on wall-to-wall trampolines at Sky Zone Miami, an indoor trampoline park, for further evidence that the market is bouncing back.
Owner Juan Brandt got a $900,000 SBA-guaranteed loan at the end of July from Wells Fargo to fund the build-out and equipment for his new franchise, which opened in October in Doral.
Brandt said he contacted SCORE and was assigned an experienced accountant as a counselor, who helped him refine his business plan. SCORE also put him in touch with banks that were most active in SBA lending, including Wells Fargo.
Still, getting a loan is not for the faint of heart. Brandt said it took about four months to get his loan.
“Even having help from SCORE and having the right person at the bank, a terrific executive who believed in the concept and was willing to work with me, even so you have to jump through a lot of hurdles to get to closing,” Brandt said.
In Miami-Dade and Broward, as well as nationally, Wells Fargo ranked at the top of the list of SBA lenders last year, in terms of dollar volume.
“We have grown our resources in Florida, which we believe is an important state with a lot of small business owners who need financing,” said Hakim Kassam, Wells Fargo’s regional sales manager for the Southeast United States, based in Deerfield Beach.
The bank has four dedicated SBA lenders in South Florida — two in Miami-Dade, one in Broward and one in Palm Beach, he said, who work with about 70 relationship bankers who funnel them business. Two types of loans are most in demand: owner-occupied commercial real estate financing — like Nuage Designs’ — and business acquisition financing, Kassam said.
Chase Bank, which made the top of the list for SBA loans last year, in terms of loan volume, also has witnessed a rebound. Both applications and approvals are up, said Carlos Alzate, Chase’s market manager of business banking for Miami-Dade.
‘A tremendous increase’
“What I’ve seen in the last year was a tremendous increase in loan origination for small businesses,” he said. In South Florida, the bank has 141 business bankers and three SBA specialists.
“As we look at financial statements for small businesses, you definitely see the improvement — not only sales are starting to increase again, but the bottom lines are increasing. You see little by little that businesses that may have had a rough year in 2009 and 2010 are starting to come out of it.”