MADISON, Wis. (5/1/12)--Small businesses continue to write to news outlets, urging the passage of a bill in Congress that would raise credit unions' member business lending (MBL) limit to 27.5% of assets from 12.25%.
One of the latest example of small businesses stepping up to urge passage of Senate Bill 2231, the Credit Union Member Business bill, is featured in an Iowa newspaper, The Cedar Rapids Gazette, which on Sunday published, "Credit union came through when banks wouldn't," written by Robert H. Sternowski.
Sternowski, a former engineer and manager at Rockwell Collins, retired in 2003 after 34 years and started a small business in aerospace electronics. "We were strictly a 'bootstrap' startup: zero capital, three engineers, a rented store front, and used furniture and equipment," Sternowski wrote. The company performed electronic design and prototype work for the government/military market. It grew. It received an opportunity to manufacture what it was designing, which would mean more profits, but it could not take the effort "unless we could get a loan or line of credit to finance the work for our orders.
"I went to the local banks--and was scoffed at by all. The reasons: You don't have 100% collateral, purchase orders are meaningless, the net worth of the company is too little, you are in the high-risk government business, and you have no track record. Basically every excuse in the book was thrown at me," Sternowski wrote. "All I wanted was a 90- to 120-day note in the amount of $300,000 to finance inventory and build costs for an approved blue-chip purchase order in hand."
He turned to Collins Community CU, where he had been a member for 30 years. "They were willing to work with me, listened, offered suggestions, and finally gave me the line of credit I desperately needed to pull off the manufacturing order. We completed that order, and that was our stepping stone for further growth. We are now 25 people and going strong in a new, larger facility."
Today he receives "cold calls from many of the local banks offering the moon in loans and services. They, of course, ask who our bank is, and when I tell them, they denigrate credit unions. I politely answer: I'm sorry, You made your own bed, now sleep in it. I already have a really good financial partner, and no one can prove to me otherwise."
Sternowski's op-ed piece was so powerful that he received an e-mail from another small business owner who read it, said the Iowa Credit Union League. The e-mailer said he too had been bounced around by the banks and that the next time he needs a loan, he'll go to a credit union.
Iowa newspapers have featured 11 op-eds, letters to the editors, and articles about the MBL issue since March 31, said the league. Many were from small businesses like Sternowski's supporting credit unions because of similar stories.