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Want to be your own boss? SBA loans are available

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By Amy Rolph
Herald Writer
Published:
The Small Business Administration has something to say: Work for yourself.
The federal agency is publicizing their government-funded loans for established business owners and entrepreneurs. And they're making the case that layoffs, depleted savings accounts and other sour signs of recession don't necessarily point toward this being a bad time to start a business.
SBA loans could be issued free off fees for some entrepreneurs, part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act enacted in February.
More recent developments appropriated money from the America's Recovery Capital program for loans to existing small businesses.
"The purpose of these loans is to help people stay current on their debt, keep their credit rating up," said SBA Regional Administrator Nancy Porzio at a publicity event Thursday.
The event showcased one of the region's earliest recovery loan recipients: an Ace Hardware store in Everett's Silver Lake neighborhood.
Gary Skrla turned 60 in January, right around the same time he lost his job as a director of human resources for OfficeMax. Not quite six months later, he's stocking the shelves in his new hardware store.
Skrla, a poster child of sorts for SBA loan programs, saved $19,777 in waived fees on his SBA-backed loan, issued by Seattle-based Fortune Bank.
He credits his mentor in the SBA's SCORE workshop program, designed to offer counsel to entrepreneurs, with pushing him to open the store.
"He said, 'Gary, if you could do it today, what would you do?'" Skrla recalled. "I said, 'You know, Ed, if I could do it today, I would open a hardware store.'"
About five months later, he's running ahead of schedule for his July 28 grand opening in a Silver Lake strip mall.
"I wish I had done this sooner," Skrla said. "It's not that difficult. We're not six months into it, and look where we're at."
But there are no shortage of somber reminders that hurdles could be looming ahead. Several of Skrla's 20 employees used to work at Coast to Coast Hardware, a Monroe store that was recently shuttered.
An experienced staff is key to Skrla's strategy for competing with nearby big-box stores.
Essentially, the SBA loans offer a backing guarantee to traditional lenders, who actually issue the business loans. It's meant to encourage borrowing and lending, which economists believe will lead to increased commerce and job creation.
For more information on the SBA and the Recovery Act, visit www.sba.gov/ recovery/index.html.
Amy Rolph: 425-339-3029, arolph@heraldnet.com. Read her small-business blog at www.heraldnet.com/TheStorefront.
Story tags » Personal Finance

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