Banker and Local Entrepreneur Smooth Small Business Lending Process Under Covid-19 Stimulus • St Pete Catalyst


Reuben Pressman, founder and CEO of St. Petersburg-based software company Presence, said it only took three days from when he applied for a loan from the Bank’s paycheck protection program. OZK for the funding to land in his bank account.

The key was to have the documents in order and up to date, as well as to work with a trusted team of bankers and other advisers, Pressman said.

Pressman, Entrepreneur-In-Residence of St. Petersburg, and Leslie Bridges, senior vice president of corporate banking at First Citrus Bank, spoke with the St. Pete Catalyst on their views on the $ 349 billion small business loan program that was included in the $ 2,000 billion stimulus package designed to mitigate the economic fallout from the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.

The PPP, along with other economic aid measures, can help maintain economic momentum in St. Petersburg, Bridges said.

“We have seen all types of entrepreneurs open their businesses. Some new ones opened in the first week of this. It is heartbreaking to see. We hope we can get the money into their hands as soon as possible so they can continue. We all love downtown St. Pete and we don’t want this to negatively impact what we love about the area, ”she said.

Navigate the challenges

While the launch of the PPP was marred by confusion, the US Small Business Administration said as of Saturday morning, banks had approved more than 725,000 loans, for a total of more than $ 182 billion, according to Inc. magazine.

Leslie Bridges, Senior Vice President, Corporate Banking, First Citrus Bank

First Citrus, a Tampa-based bank with $ 418 million in assets that spans Pinellas County and St. Petersburg, has received and approved more than 500 PPP applications, Bridges said. A handful of those loans have been funded, she said.

Bank management began work on the program as soon as the stimulus bill was approved in late March, Bridges said. The bank began receiving requests for PPP on April 3, when the SBA launched the program, but about five days before the release of specific guidelines.

“It was a little tricky because the SBA just released guidance on ready-to-use documents. There had been no information until the middle or the end of last week on how to do them. We kind of hopped on our own and started working on it before we got any advice from the SBA and once we got the advice we felt good about what we had come up with, ”Bridge said. . “We did a good job in terms of communicating with those who applied with us. If they were missing any documents, we informed them and continued the process. “

The bank is still waiting for advice for independent contractors and businessmen who take a raffle from the owner instead of a salary.

“Although they were allowed to apply on Friday of last week, we are still awaiting advice on how we are supposed to take them out, what information to ask for and if there is anyone who will not be eligible for this. “, Bridges mentioned.

While some large banks have said they will only accept PPP loan applications from existing customers, “We are happy to have a conversation with any homeowner who needs assistance,” said Bridges.

Bank OZK, a Little Rock, Arkansas-based bank with total assets of $ 23.6 billion, will quickly open accounts for business owners who are not currently customers, said Pressman, who has said they have a long-standing relationship with the bank.

Move quickly

Community banks such as First Citrus and Bank OZK appear to be growing faster than large institutions, Pressman said.

In addition, Bank OZK’s technology lab is based in St. Petersburg, giving local bankers a lead on the bank’s progress on online applications, he said.

Pressman credited Barclay Harless of Bank OZK, as well as attorney Brent Britton of the Tampa office of the law firm of Peña & Holiday, for facilitating the process.

Presence worked with Bank OZK to clean up the documents several days before applying for a PPP loan on Tuesday afternoon April 8. Pressman was informed that the loan was approved at 6 p.m. that night, but due to the size of the loan, he had second approval from a higher-level team. On the morning of Wednesday, April 9, the bank sent Pressman the last documents to be signed. Then the bank sent the documents to the SBA.

“On the morning of April 10, the money was in my bank account,” Pressman said.

As the city’s entrepreneur in residence, his advice to other entrepreneurs and small business owners is to act quickly.

” Do not wait the last minute. It’s good to have your documents organized all the time because you never know what’s going to happen, and it’s good to have people on your team who you can trust and who can act quickly ” , did he declare. “We were very prepared. We’ve taken venture capital funds, so we’re used to having our documents in order. It was a big help. I’ve talked to other founders and there are people out there who don’t even know what their operating agreement is, and it’s something you have to submit when you get federal money and a loan in general, to find out what control over this money is going to be, who signs up for it, who is allowed to do certain things.

He also urges loan seekers to triple check their applications.

“Make sure the information you put on the application is the same as in the documents you upload. If the documents are incorrect, have them corrected and then give them the correct information, because if they don’t match, that’s a problem.

The companies that will emerge strong from the current crisis are those that adapt quickly, make changes, meet challenges, and build or facilitate what the world will eventually evolve into, Pressman said.

“Hang in there, do what you can, think smart, and consider the fact that it could go on for a lot longer than you expected,” Pressman said. “Sometimes that includes tough decisions to keep businesses open and running. It’s unfortunate for anyone who has to take time off or change the makeup of their team, but hopefully between the paycheck protection program and everything in between, things will get back to normal and you will come out stronger. that when you entered it. “

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