Doing It The SBA Way

    GRAND RAPIDS — National City Bank of Michigan/Illinois was recognized recently as the leading Small Business Administration (SBA) lender in Michigan for 2001, with 146 SBA loans totaling $15.7 million this year.

    Some of that went toward investment in two local businesses, Metrology & Engineering Technologies and Reilly-Willett Enterprises, whose respective owners are Ivan Guzman and Dan Willett.

    Guzman, whose partner in the business is his son, Lenny, used his loan to purchase a CMM (coordinate measuring machine) that does all the dimensional layouts for parts for the local customers his company serves in the automotive, furniture and aerospace industries.

    Metrology & Engineering Technologies is now in the final stages of getting ISO 17025 certification, which a lot of his customers require, Guzman said.

    Before the SBA loan, Guzman had been working for three years out of his garage, borrowing equipment to do dimensional layouts. On top of running his own business, he was juggling two other jobs.

    “I was not growing and I was not going anywhere,” he recalled. “Then I made the decision to make it formal, purchase a CMM, and house it in a nice environment — and get the certification, too.”

    Willett worked for the distribution division of Domino’s Corp. for more than 13 years. The SBA loan enabled him to fulfill the lifelong dream of owning his own business, he said.

    He used the loan to buy six of eight existing Domino’s Pizza franchises in Grand Rapids and another in Holland. He subsequently bought another Domino’s store in Grand Rapids.

     “Small businesses commonly struggle with capital and that’s where the SBA program has been successfully used,” said Steve Alexander, regional president for National City in Grand Rapids.

    Eugene Cornelius Jr., district director of the U.S. Small Business Administration, commended National City’s commitment to helping small businesses access capital as well as for “the quality of counseling, workshops and training and other products that help the entrepreneur develop, grow and stay in business.”

    National City’s vice president of small business banking, Kecia Flynn, who worked with both Guzman and Willett on their loans, was recognized nationally as the top SBA lender in Michigan and also took the title of top SBA lender for National City in Michigan.

    Guzman’s and Willett’s businesses demonstrate the variety and use of the SBA program, she said.

    The 146 SBA loans National City made this year represent a 40 percent increase over last year’s total. Increasing the number of SBA loans was what the bank had in mind last year when it did a little internal restructuring and put SBA lending teams in place in six states to focus on small business, Alexander said.

    “What’s significant about this is that any one bank in the state of Michigan can participate in the SBA programs and National City pulled itself out of the rank of fourth or fifth all the way to No. 1 in a one-year period with their reorganization,” Cornelius remarked.

    Small Business Banking officers focus only on small business; they don’t have other portfolio responsibilities and they’re not tied to branches, noted Michael Dengate, also a vice president of small business banking.

    “We’ve taken our self beyond being a transactional system, where we just do a loan or a deal,” he said. “Now we want to develop that relationship so we work with the business and grow with the business.”

    Oftentimes, a bank’s small business department becomes the training ground for new lenders to move on to the corporate banking areas, so small businesses find themselves feeling shuffled from one loan officer to another in the course of their business life cycle, Flynn said.

    “In our small business department the individuals in that department have a dedication to working with small businesses on SBA loans. So there is not going to be that continual turnover.”

    National City’s holding company, National City Corp., ranked as 11th largest SBA lender in the U.S. this year and is the top cumulative lender in the six-state region of Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Indiana. 

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