BANGOR, Maine — Bangor Savings Bank loaned more than $4.7 million to 43 new and existing Maine businesses in 2012, earning recognition Thursday as the top small-business lender in the state.
Maurice Dube, district director for the Small Business Administration, announced the award Thursday in front of a gathering of small-business owners, whom he called the “backbone of our economy,” at Qualey Granite & Quartz in Veazie.
“Maine’s small businesses are the key to the state’s economic well-being, and the SBA works hard to provide many types of support,” Dube said. “Having access to affordable loans is essential to get businesses off the ground or help them expand.”
Kurt Cressey, owner of Pack Baskets of Maine since 1998, credited Bangor Savings for giving his company the boost it needed to grow and relocate.
“They were more than willing to accommodate us on many fronts,” Cressey said during a phone interview Thursday afternoon. His company creates pack baskets for wholesale to small stores and large companies like L.L. Bean.
In 2009, Cressey and his wife owned a general store in Grand Lake Stream, which they shut down after fishing season to make room for their basket-making venture. They hoped to move to a location closer to Bangor, where they would be closer to their market and have more space to grow.
Bangor Savings gave his company the flash of cash it needed to accomplish the move, Cressey said. Now, the small business calls a 5,000-square-foot garage in Orrington home.
“They’re there for you when you need them,” Cressey said. He said his basket making business ran into a dilemma when his wood supplier in Patten informed him it would be shutting its doors and he had less than a week to pick up his wood. Cressey didn’t have the money to pick up the full wood supply early, so Bangor Savings gave him the loan he needed to get his wood before the Patten supplier shut down.
After the interview, Cressey went back to weaving strips of wood to fill a 100-basket order for L.L. Bean due in a few days.
The SBA defines a small business as one that employs fewer than 500 people. There are nearly 147,500 in the state, accounting for 60 percent of private-sector jobs in the state.
In the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2012, Maine banks gave 321 loans totaling $72.3 million to small businesses in the state. In the past four years, Bangor Savings Bank has loaned more than $2 billion, with half of that going to new businesses, according to the company.
Bangor Savings Bank also received a rating of “outstanding” — the highest possible — in its three most recent Community Reinvestment Act examinations and Public Performance Evaluations, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
“As Maine’s largest independent bank, we know how important small businesses are to the state’s economy,” said Bangor Savings Bank President and CEO Jim Conlon. “Bangor Savings Bank has made an effort to continue to lend money to businesses even in the face of a slowly growing economy.”