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Small businesses in Central Kitsap uncertain about Patty Murray’s offer to help
Sandy Corbit, owner of Flowers D’Amour on Fourth Street in Bremerton, has dreams for her downtown shop.
She’d like a new energy-efficient cooler to keep her fresh flowers and more display equipment so she can fill the store floor-to-ceiling with her colorful plants and gift items. She also wants to enhance her shop’s curb appeal with new awnings.
But Corbit was denied a loan because her business is too small.
“I think it would be good to get some help,” she said Tuesday. “We need money to get money.”
It’s businesses like Corbit’s that U.S. Sen. Patty Murray seeks to help with a plan to increase small businesses’ access to loans.
With the Main Street Lending Restoration Act, Murray hopes to get banks lending to small businesses by directing $30 million in unused Troubled Asset Relief Program dollars to community banks troubled by bad real estate investments.
“As much as small business is the backbone of communities, community banks are the backbone of small business,” Murray told a group of local businesses Monday at Monica’s Waterfront Bakery and Cafe in Silverdale. There, she heard the stories of six businesses from Silverdale to Port Orchard, selected by the Silverdale Chamber of Commerce.
Although Corbit wants to see Murray’s plan approved ‚Äî it is in a Senate committee currently ‚Äî other business owners are skeptical. Brad Moore, owner of Creekside Cabinets and Design in Silverdale, was one of the businesses who met with Murray. Affected by the collapsed housing market, he has had to cut staff in recent years and have his employees work half-time. He said he will be lucky to see his business return to 60 to 70 percent of the level it was during the housing market’s peak.
Moore is worried about the unintended consequences of the bill and wants to learn more about how it would work. Getting jobs back should be the federal government’s first priority, he said.
“I’m just cautiously optimistic and I’m skeptical,” Moore said Tuesday. “I think anything that helps jobs right now will help my business.”
Tami Sioux, owner of Tami Sioux Gallery, down the street from Flowers D’Amour, said she didn’t even bother with banks when she opened her business in November. She knew she wouldn’t get a loan.
“We started this thing on a wing and a prayer,” she said, adding that she used cash and whatever credit she had left to open her gallery.
Even still, banks aren’t the main obstacle to keeping her business open. Tami Sioux said she was doing fine until Pacific Avenue construction began last month, partially blocking access to her shop. Now, with foot traffic even less than before construction, she’s deciding whether to turn her shop into an art studio or close it on weekends so she can take her wares to the weekend farmer’s markets. Turning to the bank for help would be a last resort.
“I put everything I had left into the shop,” she said.
Keith Pass√©, owner of Superior Glass Co. in Manette, said his business is self-sustaining and wouldn’t be affected by Murray’s legislation. He doubts banks would immediately start lending more freely.
“If you can’t replay the loan she intends to put out there, you can’t borrow,” he said.
Moore expressed similar doubts to Murray on Monday, saying that extra aid to community banks may not mean aid for businesses.
“What I don’t want to see is money going to these banks and it not getting out,” he said.
Later, he cited the recent failures of West Sound Bank and American Marine Bank as indications that many community banks may not survive to see the help.
“Most banks are in such trouble, they might not even be here,” he said.