HAMMOND | Local businesspeople were able to learn things from a banker's perspective during an event Friday at the Hammond INovation Center
The current state of business lending, the loan process, what bankers are looking for in business clients and how to build good relationships were topics of a forum sponsored by the Hammond Development Corp.
Representatives from the Regional Development Co., Citizens Financial Bank, Peoples Bank, Centier Bank, Horizon Bank and Accion took part in a roundtable discussion and one-on-one breakout sessions with current business owners and people hoping to start a new business and are seeking loan advice.
Sue Anderson, director of Business Builder’s Programs at the center, said the forum was held because the more small businesspeople know the direction the bank is coming from, the easier it is for them.
“We have classes here and as we’re working with these entrepreneurs and getting business start-ups, it’s nice to share information from a banker’s perspective,” she said “I think it makes a big difference.”
Regional Federal Credit Union executive director Michael Peters said the last quarter “was a little slow” and sales were down, which highlighted the instability in the economy. But he said the forecast is for manufacturing jobs in the region to continue to grow in 2014.
Daniel Magura, of Peoples Bank, said there is a lot of pent-up demand after the recession, and it might have led to a little bit too much confidence in the economy.
“Business owners seem to be excited but cautious,” he said. “They’re not really looking to do a lot of expansion or a lot of new growth unless it’s absolutely necessary.”
Rob Gardiner, of Horizon Bank, said he is seeing new business startups, but the situation has changed from a few years ago. During the heights of the recession, many of those who were laid off felt starting their own business was the easiest way to go.
“Now it’s because there are good opportunities,” he said. “The banks are much more competitive in lending – that doesn’t mean there’s free money, but they’re more competitive as they collect bad loans and have money to lend out. The trend is up. It’s not very fast up but things are loosening up. It’s a good time for small business if they have all the right elements.”
A’Del Haddad, vice president, Technology Experts Inc., has an office at the INovation Center and attended the forum because he wants to hire employees “and keep talent in Northwest Indiana.”
“I want to keep that talent here and find some resources to pay for it,” he said.
Haddad said he’s interested in hiring about 150 software engineers and developers from Northwest Indiana in the next few years.