Business banking: trends change with economy.

Author:Stomierowski, Peg
Position:FINANCIAL
 
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Business owners in Alaska, to hear a couple of lending managers tell it, need not be shy about making a well presented case for a business loan despite uncertain times.

At Wells Fargo Bank, overall credit policies haven't changed much and credit remains available for Alaska businesses, attest statewide managers of the national commercial bank. Wells Fargo originated $816 million in new business loans over the last two years in Alaska, they said. The company aims to increase business lending this year by up to 25 percent and to originate $16 billion in small-business loans.

At First National Bank Alaska in Anchorage, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Jason Roth, said the bank is not seeing the demand for commercial and small-business loans that it did a year ago.

"While year-end deposits rose by $190 million, loan demand has declined, making it a more competitive business-lending environment," Roth said. "However, let there be no mistake--at First National, we continue to make good loans to Alaskans."

Outstanding loans at First National, at about $1.195 billion, were off about $10 million from a year earlier, he said earlier this year. Demand for business loans was off a modest eight-tenths of a percent, and small-business loans were down a couple of percentage points at most.

STARTUP FUNDING

Of today's startup traffic, lenders at these and other financial institutions tend to see the better prepared--people who are seeking amounts of $50,000 or larger, said Jason Dinneen, statewide director of Alaska's Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in Anchorage.

While people are continuing to come in and open businesses, many smaller startups are turning for help to friends and family members who won't require collateral. Fear of negative credit impacts is a driver in this trend, he said.

And while common wisdom often warns against mixing family and business, doing so can be a viable source of startup support, he said, especially when a venture can be financed through multiple small-end loans of $5,000 to $10,000 that won't take money out of anyone's college fund.

"It's all in how you ask," Dinneen said, and a good business plan is as important as the appropriate tone and language. The SBDC counsels that popular new techniques of pitching an idea through 10 PowerPoint slides can help a business owner fill in the details and end up with a business plan capable of winning notice. Orientation classes for...

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