CIT bankruptcy filing raises credit concerns for small businesses

For the region's small businesses in the wake of commercial lending giant CIT Group Inc.'s Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection filing, the question is: Now what?

New York-based CIT Group, with two loan offices in Sacramento, is a leading lender to the retail sector and to women-, minority- and veteran-owned small businesses.

The firm, with liabilities listed at $64.9 billion, maintains business will continue as usual despite Sunday's filing.

But the timing is worrisome to small-business watchers, who see fewer credit avenues available to small companies.

"CIT was such a large lender. You take your biggest player out of the mix and somebody's got to take up the slack. I don't see anybody doing that," said Scott Hauge, president of Small Business California, a San Francisco-based advocacy group.

With consumer demand for products down, it's difficult to know the full impact, Hauge said, but "that doesn't mean the problem is any less bad. (Businesses) know they can't get credit."

Furniture vendors are among those paying close attention to CIT's moves.

Factoring – the sales of invoices to a third party in exchange for quick cash to finance continued business – is a major part of CIT's business and is essential for furniture retailers to buy inventory.

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