PORTLAND, Maine — Bangor Savings Bank was recognized on Thursday as the top Small Business Administration lender in Maine in 2011, with $14.9 million in loans to small companies.
Overall, Maine banks made 393 SBA loans totaling $79 million, according to the agency. Those loans are of particular importance in a state like Maine, which is dominated by small businesses. According to the SBA, there are 147,484 small businesses in Maine, accounting for 59.7 percent of the private sector jobs.
“This is who we deal with day in and day out,” said Jim Conlon, Bangor Savings president and CEO. “As a community bank, it’s what we’re all about.”
Conlon said the bank has made $200 million in small business loans since April 2008.
“That’s right here in Maine, to Maine businesses, to Maine people,” he said.
The SBA recognized Bangor Savings at an event at Akari, an Old Port salon that has benefited from the bank’s small business loans. Owner Allan Labos said he started the business five years ago, and worked to get funding to get his dream off the ground.
“Bangor [Savings] came to the plate, every single time,” he said.
Business is good, Labos said. On Wednesday evening, Akari held an open house and hosted 500 people. Business was up 20 percent over a similar event last year, he said.
Another small business aided by the bank was GrandyOats, a Brownfield company that specializes in organic granola, trail mix, roasted nuts and, a recent addition, oatmeal. The company has been around for 32 years, said Chief Granola Officer Aaron Anker, and he and his business partner have been running the business for the last 11 years.
For the first seven years they ran the company, business was growing at an annual rate of 20 percent. When they paused to look at the future, they found they had various debts scattered about. They decided to consolidate their debt with Bangor Savings, Anker said.
The company expanded its bakery last year, and this year added four new employees. The relationship with Bangor Savings has been a good one, he said, because it’s been a partnership.
“These guys know you, they’ve watched you grow,” he said.
So when the company needs money for expansion, the bank is well-versed in the company and can respond, Anker said.
Jeanne Hulit, the SBA’s New England administrator, said the agency has come off a record year, with more than $30 billion in capital provided to small businesses. Bangor Savings was the No. 1 lender in Maine, and the 11th in the region, she said.
“That was truly an accomplishment,” Hulit said.
Conlon said his bank focuses on the small business sector because “it’s the lifeline” of the economy. Conlon said his business customers are saying their financial situations are a bit better, but overall consumer confidence remains low.
Interest rates are low, the banks have money to lend, but consumers and businesses still remain worried about the future. That will probably be the case for the next two to three years as the economy slowly comes back, Conlon said.