The question came from the audience, from a small business owner from Georgia, and it went straight to the point.
In the wake of the recession, do financial institutions still have ample capital to lend?
One of the panelists at the head table, George Buchanan, was prompt with a smile and his reply: “Regions and our peers at this table and across the country have plenty of money to lend to small businesses across America.”
The head of business banking and wealth management credit at Regions Bank headquarters in Birmingham, Ala., Buchanan joined panelists for a seminar at the National Urban League annual conference designed to break down myths and provide insight for potential entrepreneurs.
The conference was held recently in Ft. Lauderdale, but drew attendees from across the nation with the theme “Save Our Cities,” the allure of celebrities and stump speeches from 2016 presidential candidates.
The seminar “Continuum of Credit: Financing Your Small Business,” was designed for small-business owners. It drew an enthusiastic crowd, some of whom remained in the ballroom afterward quizzing panelists one-on-one after the session ended.
Representing Regions were Buchanan and South Florida Area President Steve Nivet, who introduced the panelists.
Moderator Al Latimer provided an overview of Enterprise Florida and the state of Florida’s economic development structure.
Althea Harris, South Florida assistant district director of the U.S. Small Business Administration, explained her agency’s mission. She also took a second to laud the work of Regions’ bankers under Nivet in South Florida.
“Regions Bank is an SBA preferred lender and its (SBA small-business lending volume) is up 150 percent,” Harris said. “The fact that they are up 150 percent over last year means they’re lending and want to find you.”
“Helping a small business grow is critical for business and for our communities,” Nivet said.
Panelist Donna Gambrell, a visiting scholar from the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, discussed the role of Community Development Financial Institutions, which often serve under-banked customers.
Gambrell noted that the CDFI often collaborated with traditional financial institutions, and pointed to Regions as an example.
“Regions has supported CDFIs in this region in a very substantial way,” Gambrell said.
Alex Aguila explained how Sam’s Club was helping small business through program including the Sam’s Club Business Center, Smart Business Lending Club and Sam’s Club small credit cards.
Each of the panelists reiterated how important small businesses are to growing the U.S. economy.
Buchanan explained that small businesses remain a big part of business for traditional banks, like Regions. He pointed to the recently introduced Regions Business Line of credit, which provides funds up to $150,000 and has several user friendly features.
He explained how Regions looks at credit, focuses on understanding the needs of potential borrowers, and emphasized the various phases of the loan approval process.
”We focus on identifying how the loan will be repaid,” said Buchanan, reiterating a theme expressed by all of the panelists about the importance of cash flow.
In closing, the panel highlighted the need for small business owners to maintain good financial records and to be prepared to explain how their business works to any potential capital provider.