West Virginia Company Utilizes SBA Export Working Capital Program To Expand Despite Economic Downturn
Tucked away in the hills of Parkersburg West Virginia, Rolling Ridge Woods exports logs and lumber from the heart of the Appalachian region to countries all over the world.
Eugene Walters, the General Manager, credits the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Export Working Capital Program for keeping the company in business when the economy was in a recession. “We are deeply tied to the housing market and when the housing market took a hit, business was tough for a few years,” Walters said.
Although a forester by trade, Walters’ business sense is second to none. While attending a West Virginia Development Office meeting, Walters had a casual conversation with Leslie Drake from the US Export Assistance Center that may have saved the company.
Drake recommended the SBA Export Working Capital Program to help Walters shorten the payment cycle between the delivery of the goods and the payment for the product. “Because of the Export Working Capital Program, we have been able to tighten our export payment cycle from about six weeks to pretty much immediately,” said Walters. By freeing up valuable working capital, Walters is able to build the business and process additional international orders.
With the addition of exporting, Rolling Ridge Woods weathered the housing market downfall and was able to expand. When the company started out in 2002, 90 percent of their business was domestic. With SBA’s help, the company now does 60 percent of their business in direct export, 10 to 15 percent in indirect export, and the remaining in domestic business.
Not only did the increase in exporting help Rolling Ridge Woods, it also provided economic stimulus in the region through the local independent loggers and sawmills.
“Exporting is a great option for small businesses, like Rolling Ridge Woods, who are looking to increase sales and profits,” said Regional Administrator Natalia Olson-Urtecho. “The SBA provides counseling, training, and capital to help support small business in exporting opportunities.”
Companies, like Rolling Ridge Woods, are able to work directly with their community lenders. SBA provides the lenders with up to a 90 percent guarantee on export loans as a credit enhancement, so they are able to make the necessary export working capital available.
“There are programs, like the ones offered by the SBA, out there to help small businesses to succeed,” Walters said. “What I really want to tell the small guys like us, who maybe think they don’t need government assistance, is that this is not a handout. This program is structured to allow small businesses to utilize the local community bank’s money and the government will guarantee it.”
Dr. Kevin Trembush, owner of Advantage Health & Wellness, PLLC in Morgantown is looking for the wave of the future in preventative health care.
“Today’s healthcare system seems to be too dependent on drugs and surgery to fix a medical issue,” said Trembush. “It makes better sense to try to understand the cause of the ill health and correct that through basic life style adaptions, nutritional intake, and reduction of stress to allow your body to be healthy.”
At his healthcare facility, Trembush focuses on physical, functional medicine to integrate other healthcare provider educations and philosophies into a single program whose focus is on achieving and maintaining health, using drug or surgeries as a last resort. The chiropractic doctor is combining the knowledge of chiropractors, physical and massage therapists, nutritionists and medical doctors to naturally treat patients to better manage their health concerns and issues.
Before Trembush could bring all the different medical facets together in one area, he was going to need a much larger and more functional building than the 3,200 square foot area he was leasing. That’s when he approached Don Robinson at Huntington National Bank in Morgantown to inquire about financing options to build a 5,600 square foot modern facility.
“Don had commercial lending experience and thought the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Certified Development Company 504 loan program would be an excellent fit for our project,” added Trembush. “He put my wife April and me in touch with Dee McCormick at the Regional Economic Development Partnership in Wheeling, a certified SBA 504 lender for the entire state, and things quickly fell into place.”
SBA’s 504 Loan program is an economic development program that supports small business growth and helps communities through business expansion and job creation. The 504 program provides businesses with long-term, fixed-rate, subordinate mortgage financing for acquisition of capital assets, including land, buildings and equipment.
“Working with Dee on the SBA 504 loan was great,” said Trembush. “You figure a government agency would slow down the process, but the 504 loan application process actually stayed at pace or ahead of the bank.”
The SBA 504 loan was actually approved under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) which at the time allowed for the waiving of fees and a lower interest rate, which saved Trembush thousands of dollars.
“The SBA 504 loan actually surprised us with how efficient the process was,” Trembush said. “We are extremely happy with the loan terms and how helpful everyone was during the entire process.”
With job creation being a main focus of the 504 program, once the facility was completed and everything was up and running, Trembush was able to nearly double his staffing to 30 employees.
I’ve heard it said that luck is when preparation meets opportunity and a lot of luck was involved with this project,” said Trembush. “The business was ready for this and it couldn’t have happened without the support of the SBA 504 loan program. It has allowed us to grow, create jobs, and hopefully create a model for the future of the healthcare industry.”
SBA’s 504 loans are provided through an SBA-approved CDC. CDC’s work with banks and other lenders to make loans on reasonable terms, helping lenders retain growing customers and provide Community Redevelopment Act credit. A complete 504 project includes a loan secured with a senior lien from a private-sector lender covering up to 50 percent of a project, a loan secured with a junior lien from the CDC (backed by a 100 percent SBA-guaranteed debenture) covering up to 40 percent of the cost, and a contribution of at least 10 percent equity from the small business concern. The maximum long-term loan is $5 million for most businesses and up to $5.5 million for manufacturers and energy public policy projects.
For information on the SBA 504 and other loan programs and services, contact the SBA’s West Virginia or Charleston Branch offices at 304-623-5631 or 304-347-5220 respectively or visit www.sba.gov/wv.
On any given day in Morgantown it can be extremely difficult to maneuver through the streets of this thriving metropolis. From the traffic generated by West Virginia University, local hospitals, small businesses and federal agencies, automobiles are everywhere.
Morgantown resident and businessman Ismail Latif didn’t see the traffic as a nuisance, but an opportunity. “With all the vehicles moving in and around Morgantown and the hectic pace of everyday life, car owners needed a place they could go for total car care.”
Latif did a bit of research and found that AAMCO, which was primarily focused on transmissions, was broadening their expertise to include total car care. He made a few inquiries and soon had the 54-year-old company interested in opening their new concept center in Morgantown.
In order to make the car care center a reality, Latif was going to need some capital. He had previously used Huntington National Bank to fund a Quiznos franchise in Morgantown through an U.S. Small Business Administration loan guarantee and put in a call to Stephanie Ellingson to see if the bank might be interested in the AAMCO project.
“The SBA 7(a) program is well suited for these types of expansions, especially when the hard assets in the project may not fully secure the loan,” said Ellingson.
Craig Street, SBA Lending Director at Huntington thought this would be a good project to use a SBA 7(a) loan guarantee. “The AAMCO project is another great example of how Huntington partners with the SBA to find ways to say YES to small business owners in West Virginia,” he said.
The business loans that SBA guarantees do not come from the agency, but rather from banks. The loans are funded by the lenders who make the decision to approve or disapprove an applicant’s request. The SBA guaranty reduces the lender’s risk of borrower non-payment and gives small businesses a flexible financing alternative when funding might not be otherwise available on reasonable terms.
The prototype built in Morgantown, which created 15 jobs, is referred to as a super center and highlights the company’s expertise in total car care. A typical AAMCO’s facility has six operating service bays and provides service work on transmissions, engines, brakes and suspension issues. The new prototype has eight bays, with two dedicated to quick services such as oil change and tire rotations. This allows customers to get in and out in about 30 minutes without having to wait for a bay to become available.
SBA Administrator Karen Mills and West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin were both impressed during a visit in May. “SBA specializes in programs for franchisees and the AAMCO center in Morgantown is the ideal opportunity for us to help a small business entrepreneur like Ismail to get started,” said Mills.
Latif is appreciative of the opportunity he received through the SBA backed loan through Huntington National Bank. “I couldn’t have done the project without the assistance of the SBA,” he said. “It was also an honor that SBA Administrator Mills and Senator Manchin were able to tour the car care center right after we opened.”