‘Butchers, bakers and candlestick makers’: Loan officer says lending resources available to local businesses

Published 12:06 am Wednesday, March 16, 2022

SALISBURY — Ron Fisher wants to be clear: the Carolina Small Business Development Fund is a lending resource available to all small business owners.

“I usually say we make loans to butchers, bakers and candlestick makers,” Fisher said.

Founded in 1990, the Carolina Small Business Development Fund is a statewide financial institution dedicated to promoting economic opportunity for all through accessible loan programs. The CSBDF is one of about two dozen certified community development financial institutions in North Carolina chartered by the U.S. Treasury.

Fisher, a loan officer with CSBDF, spoke during the Rowan Chamber’s Minority Business Council meeting on Tuesday morning about how the fund can help current and aspiring business owners in Rowan County.

“Carolina Small Business is really designed to be an entity for folks who have had barriers in the past trying to get traditional bank lending,” Fisher said.

That includes businesses owned by minorities, veterans, women and people with low-income. The CSBDF is particularly interested in helping start-up companies. Those key groups have made up a significant portion of the institution’s borrowers over the past decade.

“In a lot of cases we are able, because we have flexible products, to find lending solutions for them that don’t quite fit the criteria that a bank may look for,” Fisher said.

The CSBDF offers loans up to $250,000 for all types of businesses. Loans can be used for a number of purposes, including working capital, inventory and supply purchases, business acquisition and the purchase of real estate or furniture.

The CSBDF has “flexible” loan terms with interest rates typically between 8-12%. The reason the rates may be higher than a commercial bank, Fisher said, is because the CSBDF is oftentimes borrowing and re-lending money from larger financial institutions.

To be approved for a loan from the CSBDF, Fisher said a business must meet several criteria. The business must have financial capacity, collateral and good credit. Fisher said a credit score below 650 will make it difficult for a business owner to borrow money, but not altogether impossible. He encourages business owners to examine their own credit score before seeking a loan.

The CSBDF will also consider the character of a business owner and their employees. One of the most important criteria a business owner must meet is having a business that meets the right market conditions.

“This is becoming a very meaningful area to consider,” Fisher said. “If you look at what is happening in the economy, there are some businesses that are on the upswing. There are others on the downswing. The market conditions may dictate that the time is right or wrong to be trying to secure financing right now.”

The CSBDF does incur a loan fee, but Fisher said the organization doesn’t add on “junk fees.”

“That’s another thing we do as a nonprofit lender is not try to create a lot of extra fees for our small business customers,” Fisher said. “We know they are already looking for sources of capital that are friendly if you will.”

Business owners who are interested in learning more about available loan resources can contact Fisher via email at ron.fishercontractor@carolinasmallbusiness.org.

The next Minority Business Council meeting will be held on Tuesday, April 19, at 9 a.m. For more information about the council, contact Rowan Chamber President Elaine Spalding at 704-633-4221 or espalding@rowanchamber.com.

About Ben Stansell

Ben Stansell covers business, county government and more for the Salisbury Post. He joined the staff in August 2020 after graduating from the University of Alabama. Email him at ben.stansell@salisburypost.com.

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