Some small businesses say lending drought impacts growth

Robert Stopanio's new medical-device manufacturing plant was supposed to open eight months ago and employ about 75 workers in a state that desperately needs jobs. But Stopanio hasn't been able to find the financing.

While the federal government pours billions of stimulus dollars into the economy and bails out some of the country's biggest banks, local businesses say they are ready to grow — if only they could get a loan.

"I am a growth mongrel, I love growth. But there is no money. There is no working capital," said Stopanio, the owner of Scorpion Performance of Fort Lauderdale.

Instead, Scorpion is building its new Ocala plant from the profits it pulls in from its primary business making high-end automotive parts.

"We have to build as we earn," Stopanio said. With a little luck the new plant will be open by Christmas.

Commercial and industrial lending across the United States fell 8 percent from December through June, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., and the lending drought has hit small business even harder.

The Small Business Administration, which encourages commercial lending by providing banks with hefty guarantees, said total loan volume was down 70 percent in Miami-Dade and 64 percent in Broward during fiscal year 2009, which ended in September.

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