(Click “Like” to become a fan of the Palm Coast Observer.)
Prosperity Bank recorded a greater commercial loan volume January through April of this year than it did in all of 2011, according to Senior Vice President Garry Lubi. But that’s not the only positive thing happening in his Palm Coast branch.
“We definitely have seen a pickup in activity,” he said. “It’s been across the board.”
In dollars, Lubi estimates that about 65% of all commercial loans his bank has issued this year have been in the form of refinancing. But the other 35%, he said, have been going to small businesses, either to new purchases or existing companies looking to expand.
Either one, Lubi said, equates to economic growth.
“I think things are definitely getting better,” he said, adding that the number of new home builds is also up. From January to April 2011, 43 new construction permits were issued in Flagler. Over the same period this year, 67 permits were pulled — a 56% increase.
In the past 18 months, Prosperity has seen its list of past-due loans beginning to shrink, as well. Nonperforming loans have improved. And after recording its best year since 2007 last year, 2012 is again slated to record the bank’s best numbers since the bubble burst.
“So the trend is really going in the right direction for us as a company,” Lubi said. “It’s not like we’re taking on … any kind of excessive amount of risk. (Banks everywhere) are trying to mitigate any risk that they can. … But a lot of people who are looking to do things now are people who have been able to make their way through the economy the last few years … and now they’re ready to take that next step.”
Palm Coast Business Assistance Center Area Manager Joe Roy has seen the same trend.
“My feeling is, over the past year, things in Flagler County have gotten slightly better,” he said. “When you start to look at economic impact, whether it’s loans, increases in sales, owners’ equity — I mean, it’s going up … at a faster rate than I’ve seen before.”
In its first full year of operation, the BAC has helped in launching 77 new businesses in Flagler, acquiring $482,600 in capital, generating $309,000 in sales increases and adding almost $2 million in salaries.
“Despite the economic malaise, our small businesses have the best chance of leading the way forward,” he said. “Without the banks helping them, the businesses can’t grow. … Does the bank win a little bit? Yes. The bank wins, and then the community wins because all of that money is being spent in Flagler County.”
“Small” firms, according to the Small Business Administration, represent 99.7% of all employer firms, employ half of all private sector employees, pay 44% of the total U.S. payroll, have generated 65% of net new jobs in the country over the past 17 years and are 52% home-based.
Even John Trost, a Prudential commercial real estate agent who works primarily out of Ormond Beach and Port Orange, has noticed an increase. In the past six months, he says, leasing and cash purchases have become noticeably more common.
Roy is also seeing more “seasoned” professionals seeking assistance in acquiring capital to launch new ventures.
“It’s still a challenge for them,” he said, “but it’s not off the radar. We’re trying to look at things in a different way, and I think banks are trying to help.”
Lubi agrees, calling local small businesses a community lender’s “bread and butter.”
“Banks play a very key role in moving our economy along,” he said. “The more improvement we can see in the banking community — that’s going to help stimulate the economy.”
One loan application Prosperity is currently working on, for example, is for a business owner who is looking to buy space locally. The owner then plans to renovate before inhabiting. That means a contractor will need to be hired, as well as construction workers. And after the business relocates into its larger space, it will be able to hire additional employees.
“So you have a multiplier effect there, for quite a number of jobs,” Lubi said.
Refinancing loans, on the other hand, he said, have more to do with cash flow and may help a company retain employees or add services.
But to Roy, the types of loans being issued don’t matter. With how conservative banks have been in approving loans, he said, the fact that so many are now being distributed really tells him something. Roy sees the commitment of bigger chains like Carrabba’s, Panera and Zaxby’s moving into town as a positive sign.
“When I see national retailers expanding into areas, something is telling them … that something is right; otherwise (they) wouldn’t be coming in,” he said. “They’re usually way ahead of the curve.”
A capital idea
Intracoastal Bank Senior Lender Mark Barr also believes that small business owners have found niches and are “doing better” than in earlier recession years, but his institution’s commercial loan volume has not seen the same spike as Prosperity Bank’s.
Intracoastal’s loan volume is “on track,” Barr said, compared to where it was last year. But he reports that his organization is nonetheless in a “growth mode.”
“Our bank in particular has always had capital to lend,” he said, noting that Intracoastal only opened in 2008, after the economic collapse. “We haven’t gone through the cycle that many other banks have, of having to reinvent their lending process because their capital was damaged in the real estate bubble.”
Prosperity Bank, for instance, is 28 years old. But because his bank is so new, Barr calls Intracoastal an “anomaly.”
“We’re going through a long-term recessionary cycle,” he said, “and fortunately or unfortunately, we’ve only been around for only four years, so we’ve done nothing but grow.”
Currently 0 Responses
18 Memorial Day Dinner
18 VFW Show and Dance
18 Spring Musical
18 The Lion in Winter
Friends of A1A produce videos to promote cycling and safety along the coastal byway
The Friends of A1A has produced six new videos designed to attract more cycling visitors to the 72-mile Scenic & Historic A1A Coastal Byway that travels through St. Johns and Flagler counties. Also, AAUW awards scholarships and loggerheads have arrived.
Palm Coast offers summer recreation, tennis, golf camps for children, teens
The city of Palm Coast is planning a summer of fun and recreation for children and teens through its summer camp at Parks & Recreation, as well as summer golf and tennis camps.
Dunk tank at Arbor Day event to raise funds to end polio
The Flagler-Palm Coast High School Interact Club is hosting a celebrity dunk tank to raise awareness and donations to end polio worldwide during Palm Coast's Arbor Day event 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, May 18, at Central Park in Town Center.