From an obscure corner of Rancho Cordova, Bob Brewer has built a specialty manufacturing empire that builds precision plastic parts and the machines to make them, for clients ranging from automakers to Gillette razors to Oakley sunglasses. Nearly three years ago, Brewer decided to consolidate his two companies – Northern California Injection Molding Inc. and El Dorado Molds Inc. – into one 90,000-square-foot facility. To finance it, he turned to his bank and a $2 million SBA loan.
On Tuesday, the head of the U.S. Small Business Administration, Maria Contreras-Sweet, stopped in Sacramento to tour Brewer’s multimillion-dollar plant and thank him for his 26-year record as an “exporter and manufacturer of American-made products, and for fueling those U.S. companies in (his) supply chain.”
Standing in a gleaming factory floor, surrounded by high-tech machinery capable of tooling steel to 0.0002ths of an inch for precision molds, Brewer said consolidating his two companies and 135 employees under one roof made sense, especially given the competitive pressures from countries like China.
“The global world of manufacturing is tough: The overhead – the cost of labor, health care, safety standards, taxes and everything else in running a manufacturing company in the U.S.,” said Brewer, who ships to clients across the country and overseas. “The reasons for all those costs are good – I’m not complaining – but it puts us at a disadvantage when competing on price.”
On a mission to spread the word to U.S. small businesses about the availability of SBA services, Contreras-Sweet said too many owners like Brewer operate in global markets but may be unaware of what’s here to help them. “So many business owners struggle,” Contreras-Sweet said. “They’re acting as the company CEO, the CFO and the marketing developer. They don’t think to ask for help.”
Part of that SBA help is a new online tool, launched last week, that helps small businesses find lenders more quickly. Called LINC (Leveraging Information and Networks to Access Capital), the website lets small-business owners fill out a simple, 20-question form that’s designed to connect them with lenders within 48 hours, both in their home county and regionally.
In announcing LINC last week, Contreras-Sweet said in a statement that thousands of small-business owners “pound the pavement every day looking for term loans, equipment financing, lines of credit, invoice financing and real estate loans ... If you have a bankable business idea backed by good credit and sound financial planning, the SBA wants to streamline the process for you to get the capital you need.”
She noted that the SBA recently “zeroed out” origination fees on loans up to $150,000. And it recently signed an agreement with the National Credit Union Association to enable more credit unions to offer small-dollar loans of up to $50,000.
Brewer, whose two companies bring in roughly $22 million a year, builds machine tools and plastic-injection molds used for U.S. military equipment and for products for private clients such as Gillette and Oakley. He said his next expansion, now underway, is building a new “clean room” to manufacture machine tools for medical equipment molds.
Help for small businesses
The U.S. SBA is urging small businesses to take advantage of its loans and other programs. Among them:
504 Loans: For companies with a “tangible net worth” below $15 million, SBA-backed loans are available from approved lenders for real estate or equipment purchases. The limit is up to $5 million.
7(a) Loans: The SBA’s most common small-business loan for general business expenses, including furniture and supplies, building renovations, etc. The maximum loan is $5 million; in 2012, the average loan was $333,000. Under a new agreement announced by the SBA this month, credit unions are now equipped to do more “small-dollar” 7(a) loans of less than $50,000.
Small Business Development Centers: Under a new contract, the Sacramento Metro Chamber and the CSUS College of Business Administration are partnering as the central hub for regional small businesses to get advice, help, loans, etc. The main center, called the Capital Region SBDC, is housed at the Sacramento Metro Chamber offices, (916) 319-4268. There also are seven regional centers, scattered from Elk Grove to Yolo County. For details: capitalregionsbdc.com.
SCORE: A nonprofit of retired business owners and experts who volunteer to offer startups and entrepreneurs business advice, counseling and mentoring. The Sacramento SCORE office covers six counties: Sacramento, El Dorado, Placer, San Joaquin, Sutter and Yolo. Call the Sacramento office at (916) 635-9085, or go online to find SCORE chapters nationwide: score.org.