WHITE PLAINS – Construction industry association executive Ross J. Pepe briefed members of the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors on Feb. 28 at the HGAR offices in White Plains on the plans being advanced by state and federal officials to build a new $5.2-billion Tappan Zee Bridge.
Pepe, president of the Construction Industry Council of Westchester & Hudson Valley, Inc. and the Building Contractors Association based in Tarrytown, said that if all goes according to plan a Design- Build contracting firm will be selected this summer and a Record of Decision reached by the end of August or early September with construction starting shortly thereafter. The project calls for the construction of a new bridge that would support mass transit at a future date.
Approximately 50 members of HGAR attended the joint session of HGAR’s Commercial Investment Division and its Legislative, Legal and Political Affairs Council.
After the session was completed, the Legislative, Legal and Political Affairs Council met to discuss the Tappan Zee Hudson River Crossing Project and approved a policy statement in support of the new bridge plan.
HGAR in its policy statement noted, ”Considering that building a new bridge is now among the highest infrastructure priorities at both the federal and New York State levels, that we have the commitments of the Obama and Cuomo administrations to commence the project, and that there is serious consideration of fundraising options by those parties, it does not make sense to risk all that by tacking on an untold number of years to plan and review the transit options. Our preference as an organization is that the project stay on its current fast track and in transit-capable mode.”
The Legislative Committee stressed that its position in support of the expedited plan “is not to be interpreted as a less than enthusiastic endorsement of the mass transit component, but rather a pragmatic seizure of an opportunity that may not reoccur. We do in fact strongly support mass transit, and we urge that every effort be made to start planning for it right now, so that a final configuration could be in place when the bridge construction is completed, if not sooner.”
The committee noted that prior studies have amassed a tremendous amount of information concerning a mass transit component on the new span. The committee stated, “The Federal Highway Administration and the New York State Thruway Authority and Department of Transportation should assist local governments in the I-287 corridor with program grants and other resources to complete the corridor study as a separate project. County governments in the corridor could perhaps be the coordinating entities; Westchester and Rockland both had advisory groups for the former project. In short, we recommend that there be two tracks, the mass transit capable bridge, and the mass transit redesigned I-287 corridor. Neither must wait for the other, the need is too urgent.”
Developments on the Tappan Zee Hudson River Crossing have come fast and furious. In fact, later in the day of the HGAR session was the first of two public hearings on the recently released Draft Environmental Impact Statement on the new bridge project that found no adverse environmental impact. The Feb. 28 public hearing was held at the Palisades Center in West Nyack. On March 1, a session was scheduled at the Westchester Marriott in Tarrytown.
Proponents of the project were expected to be out in force for the project that is expected to create more than 10,000 construction jobs and thousands of other jobs. Also predicted to have large contingents at the sessions are those that are pushing state and federal officials to have some form of mass transit (bus rapid transit or commuter rail) be part of the bridge project upon completion. Among those mass transit advocates are Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino and Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoeff.
On Feb. 7, the New York State Thruway Authority and the New York State Department of Transportation announced they had selected four design-build consortiums as qualified bidders for the new bridge project.
State officials reported that a request for proposals (RFP) would be issued to the four bidders in coming weeks. Thruway Authority officials noted that a total of five design-build partnerships expressed interest in the new Tappan Zee Bridge project, but only four were deemed qualified based on what they said was a “thorough multiagency technical review.” The identity of the firm not deemed qualified was not released.
The four groups that will be sent RFPS for the project are:
Hudson River Bridge Constructors
(a group including Dragados USA, Inc., Flatiron Constructors, Inc., Samsung C&T, E&C Americas, Inc., and Yonkers Contracting Company, Inc.)
Kiewit-Skanska-Weeks Joint Venture
(Kiewit Infrastructure Co., Skanska USA Civil Northeast Inc., and Weeks Marine, Inc.)
Tappan Zee Bridge Partners, a Bechtel/Tutor Perini Joint Venture
(Bechtel Infrastructure Corporation and Tutor Perini Corporation)
Tappan Zee Constructors
(Fluor Enterprises, Inc., American Bridge Company, Granite Construction Northeast, Inc., and Traylor Bros., Inc.)
In relation with the new bridge project, the New York State Department of Transportation announced that Trevcon Construction Company, Inc. of Liberty Corner, NJ was the apparent low bidder at $17.9 million for test pile installation across the Hudson River as part of the Tappan Zee Hudson River Crossing project. Work has already begun on the pile project.
Pepe explained that the design of the new bridge would either be an arch style or “cable-stay” with two towers. Both design options would be a twin span (two decks) each featuring four 12-foot traffic lanes (for a total of eight lanes), a left shoulder and emergency access, a right shoulder, and barriers along the decks’ edges. The left and right shoulders would serve as disabled vehicle lanes. The left shoulder would also provide emergency vehicle access. A bicycle lane would also be provided.
He also noted that the expedited project is being advanced under the “Design- Build” process, which was passed by the New York State legislature last year, where the private sector competes to offer the most innovative, cost effective designs for the new bridge. Rather than the state mandating a specific bridge design and construction method, qualified firms are now competing on their respective designs for the replacement bridge. The designbuild process permits an expedited construction schedule compared to traditional state contracting, and offers significant cost savings with less risk to state taxpayers of design changes and resulting cost overrun, state officials have said.
In October 2011, President Barrack Obama announced that the Tappan Zee Bridge project was one of 14 megaprojects across the nation to be fast-tracked in an expedited approval process. The project team, which includes the Federal Highway Administration, the New York State Department of Transportation and the New York State Thruway Authority (the owner of the bridge that connects Rockland and Westchester counties), are now working on the environmental approvals and design for a new span to be built just to the north of the existing structure. The project team issued a Request for Qualifications to interested contractors in November of 2011.
The Federal Highway Administration, which is now spearheading the project, rescinded the prior environmental studies that were underway, which included a number of designs for a new span as well as bus rapid transit and commuter rail to be possibly incorporated into the project. Cost estimates ranged from $8 billion to $16 billion for a full build-out that included commuter rail in a more than 30-mile study area that began in Suffern and ended in Port Chester. Instead, the new fast-tracked study now involves a little more than three miles from Nyack to Tarrytown, and is focused solely on building a new bridge that “does not preclude transit in the future.”
“Until last October, it would have been a safe bet that a new crossing would not be started or built for at least a five to 10-year period,” Pepe said. “The (prior) process that was engaged had reached nearly a decade with little movement to success.”
He charged that the prior study involved a 30-mile area and included bus and commuter rail options with little financing available to fund the nearly $20 billion project.
The expedited plan could allow a groundbreaking for this project to be held prior to Election Day in November.
Pepe said that under the new plan the state has been or will be applying for approximately $3 billion in federal (TIFA) loans and TIGER grants. The balance of the project will be financed via traditional bonding (likely to be issued by the bridge’s owner The New York State Thruway Authority) and toll increases. State officials have also said that pension fund and other private investment could be possible.
The New York State Department of Transportation has hired Jeffrey A. Parker Associates of Philadelphia to provide financial advice and analysis on the financing of the new span. A report on financing options is expected to be released soon.
Pepe later in the day was part of a press conference orchestrated by ReplaceTheTZBridgeNow. org, a statewide coalition of major employers, transportation professionals, civil engineers, and labor organizations representing more than 300,000 employees and 15,000 employers, in support of the expedited bridge plan.
In a press statement, Pepe said, “Based on the assessment of the project’s limited funding opportunities for the foreseeable future, the decision to exclude the complete build out of a mass transit program was a wise decision. Based on the reality of the funding that is now available, the new Tappan Zee Hudson River Crossing Project will not preclude the planning, design, construction or consideration of future transit modes through the TZ corridor. In other words, the final bridge design will not preclude future transit operations
With the "recovery" moving forward (slowly), folks are getting back into prudent investing. Prudence demands that investors diversify their portfolios (cash, stocks, bonds, gov't T-Bills, & real estate). Real Estate is a staple that belongs in your investment portfolio.
As a commercial real estate professional with Rand Commercial Services, I would be foolish not to encourage people to take a serious look at moving out of their rental properties, and buying a home while prices & financing are at historic lows. House prices are expected to rise slightly in 2012, but bargains are still abundant. Contact a licensed broker - using a broker will actually save your time & money.
Ask your broker about distressed inventory in your neighborhood. Nobody would be a better owner/investor or landlord than you - WHY? Because you already have a vested interest in making that property work!
Remember-the rental market is hot, and if you own a desirable property purchased at a low price; renting it out could provide a very profitiable return on your investment.
When the "for sale" market heats ups, sell on the upswing, don't wait for the top of the market; you'll get burned. Use the money to pay for college or reduce debt. On the commercial front, the "recovery" is lagging behind the residential comeback. 2012 will be a very interesting transitional period for commercial markets.
More to come about: retail, office, industrial and multi-family real estate investments next time. The face of Commercial Real Estate in Rockland is Changing.
Four finalists for the Tappan Zee Bridge rebuilding contract are collaborations of engineering and development companies that range from local entities to multinational corporations.
The finalists were announced Feb. 7 by the state Thruway Authority and Department of Transportation (DOT). Contractors submitted statements of qualifications that were reviewed by technical evaluation teams representing the Thruway Authority, DOT, Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Federal Highway Administration.
The four finalists are:
- Hudson River Bridge Contractors, a group including Dragados USA Inc., Flatiron Constructors Inc., Samsung C&T, E&C Americas Inc., and Yonkers Contracting Co. Inc.
- Kiewit-Skanska-Weeks Joint Venture, including Kiewit Infrastructure Co., Skanska USA Civil Northeast Inc., and Weeks Marine Inc.
- Tappan Zee Bridge Partners, including Bechtel Infrastructure Corp. and Tutor Perini Corp. in New Rochelle.
- Tappan Zee Constructors, a group including Fluor Enterprises Inc., American Bridge Co., Granite Construction Northeast Inc., and Traylor Bros. Inc.
Several companies among the finalists have worked previously on the Tappan Zee Bridge, including Tutor Perini, which is currently in the finishing stages of a deck resurfacing project.
The four groups were selected on the basis of several criteria, including prior experience with projects of this scale, past performance records, a familiarity with design-build construction projects, financial capability and environmental compliance records.
The next step will be for each of the finalists to submit a design-build proposal to the state after it issues a formal request for proposals, expected in late February or early March.
Representatives of the four finalists could not be reached prior to press time.
The state Legislature last year authorized the use of a design-build procedure, which enables prospective developers to submit design plans rather than having the state mandate specific design and construction methods for public works projects. The legislation allows projects like the Tappan Zee Bridge to be expedited, reducing the risk of delays due to design changes.
Ross J. Pepe, president of the Construction Industry Council of Westchester and Hudson Valley Inc., called the announcement of four finalists “a major step forward to advance the replacement of the aging Tappan Zee Bridge” and touted the design-build procedure for streamlining the bridge planning process.
The state and federal agencies coordinating the process have not disclosed more details regarding how the estimated $5.2-billion bridge project will be financed.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo in his executive budget proposal outlined an economic development plan that includes billions of dollars in infrastructure funding from state authorities and private funding sources.
ALBANY – New York State and federal transportation agencies are committed to an aggressive approval timeline that could end in the start of construction of a new multi-billion dollar Tappan Zee Bridge by the late summer or early fall of this year.
On January 24, the New York State Department of Transportation and the New York State Thruway Authority jointly released the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Tappan Zee Bridge project. The DEIS concluded that there would be no adverse impacts with the construction of a new span that would not preclude a mass transit component in the future.
While a host of business and political leaders commented favorably on the expedited plan by the Obama and Cuomo administrations to build a new span, a number of local politicians, including Westchester County Executive Robert Astorino and Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef have repeatedly called for mass transit to be included in the initial construction of the new bridge. Proponents of the expedited plan argue that including mass transit now would add years of delay and billions of dollars to the cost of the project.
Major highlights of the DEIS report included: the construction duration is anticipated to range from 3 to 5½ years, and the construction cost is anticipated to run from $3.5 to $5 billion. Using the Design Build project delivery method, a construction duration of 4½- to 5½ years was assumed, and the construction cost was estimated at $4.64 billion (in 2012 dollars). The total number of construction job generated by the project is estimated at 14,094. Over the estimated five-year construction build-out, the project would directly generate an average of 2,819 fulltime workers per year.
“New York has spent a decade talking, studying, and meeting about how to replace this vital bridge,” said NYSDOT Commissioner Joan McDonald. “But under Governor Cuomo’s leadership we have been able to make significant progress in building a new Tappan Zee Bridge. The governor’s expedited timeline has accelerated this project, which will create jobs and generate much needed economic development opportunities in the Hudson Valley. At the same time, the study does not rule out mass transit options. Now that we understand the environmental effects of reconstructing the bridge, it is time to start laying out real construction plans.”
Thomas Madison, executive director of the Thruway Authority, added, “The completed DEIS represents the remarkable team effort that is quickly becoming a hallmark of the new Tappan Zee Bridge Project. Leadership from Governor Cuomo and support from President Obama have enabled the Thruway Authority, NYSDOT, and the Federal Highway Administration to work in a focused, collaborative way to meet this critical deadline and maintain project momentum.”
The agencies announced that comments on the DEIS will be accepted until March 15, and public hearings will be held in Westchester and Rockland counties in late February. New York met the January 19 deadline to submit the DEIS to the federal government, state officials said. The replacement bridge will have eight traffic lanes as opposed to the current seven, and feature two breakdown lanes that could also be used to accommodate transit or other transportation purposes, state officials said. Additionally, unlike the current structure, it will include pedestrian and bicycle lanes.
A host of politicians from the region expressed their support of the DEIS and expedited plan in statements included in the state-issued press release, including: Rep. Nan Hayworth, Rep. Nita Lowey, Rep. Eliot Engel, State Senators Suzi Oppenheimer and Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee, Assemblymen Robert J. Castelli, George Latimer and Kenneth Zebrowski, Westchester County Board of Legislators Chairman Ken Jenkins, Rockland County Legislature Chairwoman Harriet Cornell, Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano, and Christopher St. Lawrence, supervisor of the Town of Ramapo.
Marsha Gordon, president and CEO of the Business Council of Westchester, said, “Today’s Environmental Impact Study takes us one step further towards completing Governor Cuomo’s bold plan to aid in the reconstruction of the Tappan Zee Bridge which needs to provide a cohesive transportation network for the region and north-east mobility. Today’s announcement provides a concrete timetable for when improvements will begin, and how the new bridge will differ from its antiquated predecessor. This project also provides thousands of job opportunities for the region and state.”
Al Samuels, president and CEO of the Rockland Business Association, said, “For too long the Tappan Zee Bridge has been rapidly decaying and government has done nothing. The Governor’s Environmental Impact Study demonstrates significant progress in rebuilding one of New York’s most essential bridges. The governor’s expedited plan to replace the obsolete Tappan Zee Bridge, generates much needed job creation and economic development in Rockland and Westchester. It is clear that anyone who opposes the Governor’s plan is directly opposing jobs in the Hudson Valley. I commend Governor Cuomo for his bold plan which will facilitate safer and faster transit to help rebuild our economy.”
NYSDOT and NYSTA are currently reviewing statements of qualifications that were submitted by prospective contractors as of a January 10 deadline. A short list of qualified bidders will be identified by the agencies on January 31. The project team is scheduled to publish the final Environmental Impact Statement, which would include the selection of the bridge design, in June 2012. It will announce the selection of the Design/Build contractor by July 2012 and reach a Record of Decision, execute the Design/Build contract and issue a Notice to Proceed to the winning contractor by August 2012.
In October 2011, President Obama announced that the Tappan Zee Bridge project, which had been mired in more than 10 years of study with no end in sight, was one of 14 mega-projects across the nation to be fast-tracked in an expedited approval process. At that time, the Federal Highway Administration, which is now spearheading the project, rescinded the prior environmental studies that were underway, which included a number of designs for a new span as well as bus rapid transit and commuter rail to be possibly incorporated into the project. Cost estimates ranged from $8 billion to $16 billion for a full build-out that included commuter rail in a 35-mile study area that began in Suffern and ended in Port Chester. Instead, the new fast-tracked study now involves a little more than three miles from Nyack to Tarrytown and is focused solely on building a new bridge that “does not preclude transit in the future.”
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YONKERS -– Numerous business groups across the Hudson Valley region and the state offered praise and support for Governor Andrew Cuomo’s $132.5-billion state budget, which includes significant increases in infrastructure spending to stimulate the economy, while at the same time closing a $2-billion deficit without raising taxes or fees.
However, officials with the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors (pending name change approval by the National Association of Realtors from the existing Westchester Putnam Association of Realtors) are hopeful that the governor will withdraw or the State Legislature will reject or modify a proposal that would extend real estate broker and salesperson license terms from two to four years. In addition, fees would be increased from $150 to $300 for real estate brokers and from $50 to $100 for real estate salespersons. The act would go into effect on April 1, 2013.
Other key provisions of the proposal include: doubling the continuing education requirements to 45 hours in the four-year renewal period, including six hours of fair housing and/or discrimination course training.
Renewals scheduled prior to the April 1, 2013 effective date would have two years to complete the standard 22.5 hours of continuing education training. Any renewals on or after April 15, 2015, will increase to the 45-hour requirement, according to the New York State Association of Realtors.
Richard Haggerty, chief executive officer of the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors, said the governor’s proposal would have a large impact on the HGAR School of Real Estate and other Realtor Board real estate schools across the state. In a communiqué to officials with the New York State Association of Realtors, Haggerty said that this licensing policy change, if enacted, would also adversely impact consumers.
“We have spent several years raising the education bar for the real estate profession, much to our credit. We successfully shortened the education cycle to two years, so that real estate licensees stayed more current on the laws and regulations that affect their profession. We raised the number of licensing hours for the sales course from 45 to 75 hours,” he said. “We included three hours of fair housing training in every 22.5-hour continuing education cycle. I can’t help but feel that with this change we are surrendering some of these hard fought gains, which will ultimately have a negative impact on the consumer.”
Other real estate-related proposals in the governor’s proposed 2012-2013 budget included the elimination of the STAR tax benefit for those taxpayers who have outstanding state tax debts. The plan also featured two proposals to assist homeowners and tenants—the creation of a Foreclosure Relief Unit to provide counseling and mediation services to homeowners and a Tenant Protection Unit to provide stricter enforcement of New York State’s rent laws.
In his budget message delivered on Jan, 17 in Albany and the next day at a presentation in Yonkers, Gov. Cuomo revealed his $132.5-billion budget, which includes the $15-billion New York Works infrastructure fund, will feature $917 million in accelerated federal transportation aid and $247 million in additional state funding from the highway bridge dedicated trust fund. The struggling construction industry in New York State can expect a major shot in the arm with approximately $1.16 billion in added state transportation capital spending in 2012-2013 if the governor’s budget is adopted as is.
To close the deficit, the governor has proposed a 4.5% reduction in planned state operations funding for a savings of $1.3 billion and a $756-million reduction in projected aid to localities.
Governor Cuomo said, “This budget demonstrates fiscal discipline and proposes real reforms that puts students ahead of the education bureaucracy and leverages major investment to spur private sector growth. By coming together in the same bipartisan manner we did last year, we will continue our work to build a New New York.”
Focus on Infrastructure
The New York Works infrastructure fund program will accelerate capital investment, building upon core transportation funding, to provide a total New York State Department of Transportation capital program of nearly $4.5 billion in 2012-13, including highways, bridges, rail, aviation, non-MTA transit, and DOT facilities financing. The MTA’s capital program will receive $770 million in new state support over a multi-year period to help fund the MTA’s $22.2-billion 2010-14 capital program. The governor’s proposed budget includes $250 million from the General Fund to offset the impact of the MTA payroll tax reform signed into law by Gov. Cuomo a month ago.
Gov, Cuomo explained that the New York Works Fund will be seeded with $1.3 billion in state funding ($723 million in new capital and $600 million from accelerated existing capital): $1.7 billion from the federal government, which involves a combination of new and accelerated federal aid); authority financing that would include $5 billion for the construction of a new Tappan Zee Bridge, $3.23 billion in existing capital accelerated from NYSERDA and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and $770 million to complete the MTA capital plan; and $3 billion from the private sector.
The governor intends to tap the New York Works Fund to finance the improvement of more than 100 bridges, the repair of 2,000 miles of roads, the upgrade 90 municipal water systems, the improvement of 48 state parks and historic sites and the repair of 114 flood control projects statewide.
Other key economic development initiatives that were part of the governor’s proposed budget include: the redevelopment of the existing Aqueduct Racetrack and Racino by building a new 3.2-million square-foot convention center along with 1,000 hotel rooms and added gaming space. In exchange for some state approvals, gaming giant Genting Group will finance the $4-billion venture with no state funding necessary.
With the development of the convention center in Queens, the governor is proposing to revitalize the existing Javits Center in Manhattan by redeveloping the 18-acre property similar to the Battery Park City complex on the West Side.
He also proposed that a constitutional amendment be introduced to legalize casino gaming in New York State and a second round of Regional Economic Development Awards.
Business Groups Express Support
Reaction from the transportation and business sectors on the governor’s budget has been positive.
Ross J. Pepe, president of The Construction Industry Council of Westchester & Hudson Valley, Inc. of Tarrytown, said the additional funding for highway and public works projects are coming at the right time, when the economy is ailing and crews are out of work.
“Gov. Cuomo’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2012-13 beginning April 1 is clearly aimed at solving many of the problems we as New Yorkers now face,” Pepe said. “There are high unemployment levels in many sectors of the economy and a very demonstrable need to bring our transportation infrastructure up to par with neighboring states. Transit and transportation safety and reliability are essentials if we hope to grow our economy in New York.”
After attending the budget presentation in Yonkers, The Business Council of Westchester released a statement of support for the governor’s proposals. The $25 billion in infrastructure and economic development projects that leverage public/private partnerships will jumpstart our economy and generate revenue for the state. These proposals prove, once again, that the Governor understands the importance of the business community in New York. He has set out an ambitious plan for 2012 and we look forward to helping him achieve these goals.”
William Mooney, president of the Westchester County Association, stated, “We are pleased that The Executive Budget introduced by Governor Cuomo today continues along the fiscally responsible path initiated last year. We are hopeful that the policies put in place will launch major job creating projects here in Westchester and across the state. We agree with Governor Cuomo that it takes a strong private sector to ensure a secure future for New York State.”
Marketing Messaging: 6 Strategies to Turbo-Charge Your Website
Posted By susanne On January 8, 2012 @ 1:05 pm In Best Practices,Business Development,Coaching,Marketing,Real Estate Technology,Real Estate Training
With the arrival of a new year, now’s a great time to look closely at your website and evaluate what worked well in terms of bringing you the results you wanted as well as what didn’t work throughout the last 12 months. Here are six strategies that you should incorporate into your website to hit the ground running in 2012.
1. Make sure you have a strong MLS search tool on the front page of your site. Having an interactive search tool where the visitor can choose a specific town, price range and even property type can be a powerful way to compel them to want to click-through and access listings. Having an IDX-integrated search on the home page eliminates the need for buyers or sellers to click-through three or four levels just to view homes.
2. Double check that you are the point of contact on every listing when the visitor searches the MLS. If you are driving people to the MLS search, don’t forget that the name of the game is lead generation. Make sure they can ask for more information easily, schedule a showing or even share the listing with a friend in a matter of seconds, all while positioning yourself as the point of contact and keeping an eye on the activity.
3. Have specialized buttons right on the front page so that visitors to your site can get information for what they are specifically interested in. For example, take a look at http://hollimccray.com and you’ll see buttons dedicated to one-level living and for properties close to the downtown area of Knoxville.
4. Have a built-in blog within your site. Notice that I didn’t say HAVE a blog as your website like http://markspain.com/atlanta_real_estate_blog. Instead, take the time to create a blog that can be integrated within your site. This way your website has components for lead capture through search engines and your blog is working to add content and build relevance for the search engines. Make sure your visitors have the ability to retweet your information as well as share it on Facebook and other social media channels.
5. Have social media-share features on every single page in your website. People want to see information and then they want to “like” it or share it on their Facebook wall or on their Twitter account.
6. Have built-in email campaigns so that you can easily send specific emails to targeted groups. For example, let’s say you come across a great foreclosure deal and you want to let your foreclosure buyer pipeline know about it. Have the tools so that you can email the entire group within moments to let them know about the new listing.
Tricia Andreassen is the CEO/founder of Pro Step Marketing.
Entrepreneur Jane Stout briefly tried to obtain financing from a bank to start her grocery business in Port Chester, an unusual retail venture for Westchester County. Instead of that conventional lending route, she found what she needed through a nonprofit agency that works with small-business owners in the region, many of whom have been turned down for loans by banks.
Stout operates That Discount Place, a 3,500-square-foot grocery in former warehouse space at 155 Irving Ave. that sells foods in damaged packaging or past their stamped expiration dates. The goods typically are priced at 30 percent to 60 percent below those at conventional grocery stores.
“It’s basically the first market in this part of the country,” she said. Discount groceries are popular in the South and Midwest. In her youth, Stout worked at her family’s three discount groceries in Indiana.
Formerly the chief operating officer at a Manhattan marketing and production company, Stout saw her position eliminated following a company merger. “I had a forced opportunity to do something that I had been really wanting to do for a long time” as a discount-grocery pioneer, she said.
Stout was referred by a New York State Small Business Development Center adviser to Community Capital Resources in Hawthorne, the U.S. Small Business Administration microlender for Westchester and five other Hudson Valley counties and the largest nonprofit lender in the region. “I just basically needed to get my hands on $50,000 and they were able to accommodate me.” She opened her business in late October.
Community Capital could not have made a loan in that amount until about 18 months ago, when the SBA raised its program loan cap from $25,000 to $50,000 as part of the federal economic-recovery stimulus package.
“This is a very expensive part of the country to be opening a business in,” said Tamara Underwood, director of small business lending and support at Community Capital, which also has offices at the Orange County Business Accelerator in New Windsor and at the Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce in Poughkeepsie. Previous SBA loan limits were too low for Westchester, she said.
Even with the loan-cap increase, “We see businesses that need more than $50,000,” she said.
Since the recession and the credit crisis that began in 2008, “We saw a big increase in demand for our loans,” Underwood said. Some businesses in 2009 had their lines of credit closed out by banks and severe cash flow problems. “The banks had kind of packed up and shut down” their lending, she said. Community Capital began to see more mature companies and businesses with higher revenues as clients.
The agency’s average small-business term loan has more than doubled since the recession, from $11,000 to $12,000 prior to 2008 to $24,000 to $26,000 in 2011. Community Capital, though, still has only one client with annual revenue of more than $1 million, Underwood said.
One year ago, the agency launched a lending partnership with the city of Yonkers and the state’s Empire State Development Corp. Tapping Empire State Development’s small business revolving loan fund, Community Capital matches dollar-for-dollar the amount of a commercial loan made by Yonkers from its Community Development Block Grant fund. The partnership provides small loans of $25,000 or less and larger loans that range from $25,000 to $250,000. Only businesses that have been operating for two years or more are eligible for the larger loans.
Five Yonkers businesses received loans of $25,000 or less in the partnership’s inaugural year. Three companies have received larger loans and another business is about to close on a $100,00 loan, Underwood said.
From his Yonkers home, Marvin Vasquez operates Multi Marketing USA, an Internet and social-media marketing and website development business he launched in 2010. When he decided to take his startup “to the next level” last year, Vasquez knew from his brother, a Webster Bank employee, that banks would not approve the loan he sought for working capital and to invest in hardware and software equipment.
“I think financial institutions haven’t grasped how lucrative this (web) business can be,” he said. “That was one of the challenges that we had to overcome.”
Referred to Community Capital Resources by his brother, Vasquez obtained the financing he needed. His business location in Yonkers, where the lending partnership operates, “gave me an extra push,” he said. He has hired a graphic designer to join him and his wife in the business.
“It was a very interesting process,” said Vasquez. “It’s not as easy as people think to get funded.”
Between October 2010 and September 2011, the U.S. Small Business Administration backed more than $30 billion in loans nationally and $1.4 billion in New England alone.
While those numbers are unlikely to repeat themselves, there has been a continued strong demand for SBA-backed loans by businesses across Fairfield County and across the state three months into the organization’s 2012 fiscal year.
The robust demand is likely the result of several relatively new measures, including an increase in the maximum loan amount from $2 million to $5 million and a simplification of the CAPLines program, which is designed to help businesses meet short-term working capital needs.
Through the first quarter of the SBA’s 2012 fiscal calendar, which runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 31, the Connecticut office has backed 137 loans worth a total of $44.4 million compared with roughly 200 loans that were approved with SBA backing in the previous year.
“It looks as though we are ahead of schedule,” said Bernard M. Sweeney, district director of the Connecticut SBA office. “We’ve certainly done more minority loans in the first quarter than we did in all of last year, and that to me says an awful lot.”
Sweeney attributed the perceived annual drop in the number of loans to a huge surge in SBA lending activity that took place at the end of 2010, when a job stimulus bill temporarily increased the guarantee level on SBA-backed loans to 90 percent and waived a number of fees for loans made between September and December of that year.
Currently, the SBA guarantees 80 percent of sponsored loans that are for less than $150,000 and 75 percent of sponsored loans that are for more than $150,000.
The SBA’s two signature loan programs are its 7a Loan Guaranty Program and its Certified Development Company/504 Loan Program that targets businesses looking to construct, buy or renovate fixed assets, such as land, buildings and machinery and equipment.
While business and consumer confidence has risen over the past several months on steadily improving employment numbers and improving retail sales, Sweeney said banks are still lending conservatively and that as a result, there has been a consistent demand for loans with SBA backing.
“The banks are still looking for the enhancement on their loan and of course the SBA guarantee provides the greatest such enhancement,” Sweeney said.
Robert Polito, director of government-guaranteed lending for Webster Bank in Waterbury, said there is generally a higher awareness among Fairfield County business owners, leading to a higher demand for the various SBA loan programs.
“My sense is there’s a sophistication level here that might not be seen in such concentration levels as in other areas,” Polito said. “Because of that, the demand is going to be there for this type of lending.”
Webster Bank divides its clients into a small-business portfolio and a commercial banking portfolio. Among the small-business portfolio, SBA-backed loans represented roughly 14 percent of the total loans approved by the bank last year, Polito said.
“We would like that number to grow significantly for 2012. It would be wonderful to reach that 25 percent level for the portfolio,” he said.
During the SBA’s 2011 fiscal year, Webster Bank was the state’s top backer of SBA 7a and 504 loans and was the seventh-ranked SBA lender among New England financial institutions.
Polito said three areas that will drive SBA lending in 2012 include the organization’s budget flexibility, banks’ response to the October 2010 measure that increased the maximum SBA-backed loan value from $2 million to $5 million, and banks’ and businesses’ response to the simplification of the CAPLines program.
It has taken some time for lenders to get comfortable with the $5 million loan maximum, Polito said, but with 2012 may come a greater application of higher SBA-backed loans.
Additionally, Polito predicted that changes to the CAPLines program would result in a significant uptick in the number of businesses that take advantage of SBA backing of working capital lines of credit.
“In prior years the product was not even remotely used by SBA lenders because of the complexities,” he said. “What the SBA did was to drastically decrease the hoops you have to jump through to get one approved.”
Access to working capital lines are essential for local businesses, Polito said, predicting that SBA-backed loans under its CAPLines program would “significantly increase in volume for fiscal year 2012.”