The effort, dubbed "Wells Fargo Works for Small Business," includes a new website and an emphasis on expanding various lines of business with commercial customers.
"Small business is the backbone of our country, and we understand that," said
The bank did not break down how much of the
In the first quarter of this year, there was a "pullback" in loan demand, he said, much of it pegged to uncertainty surrounding an evolving health-care environment and weather issues. The
"But most of the economic indicators you're seeing, and especially locally, unemployment's down," he said. "You see new business startups. You see expansion in some of the existing businesses. So we're moving in the right direction."
Both Allmendinger and Mabey said interest rates remain so low that there's never been a better time to seek out a loan for a new business or grow an existing venture.
"Rates are really too low to have a growing economy," Allmendinger said. "But when interest rates are low, it's the time to borrow. You've seen that not only in the mortgage industry, but in the small business industry as well. Now's the time to get fixed rates for long periods of time."
But, for a number of reasons, that isn't happening in the majority of the small business world, said Mabey, who noted surveys indicate only 40 percent of small companies intend to or have a desire to borrow.
"It's even less in the middle markets group," he said. "So you have to ask yourself why."
A quarterly Gallup poll commissioned by
"A lot of it has to do with health care, the unknown around it -- should I add employees, do I not add employees," Mabey said of the current lingering anxiety. "That also goes to capital and lending, whether they're even going to want loans."
Another national factor that often ripples down to the state level is the potential for more increases in the minimum wage, Mabey said. But he's not certain how deep the worry is over that issue.
"A lot of people talk about, 'I'm already paying my people over that (mandated wage), so I'm not really worried about it,'" he said. "A lot of people talk about it's just the right thing to do. A lot of people talk about, 'Hey, if the minimum wage goes up, I don't have to worry about other businesses trying to outpay me and losing my best people because of that.'"
They point to
"We're able to meet all of his needs in-house, so he doesn't have to go somewhere else to meet all of his financial needs," Wells Fargo Area President
"The best way to do it is to go out and call and know the business owners in our area, get to know what's on their mind," Horn said of the approach his 80 local bankers are taking during the small business push. "And that's if they bank with us or not. Because eventually a business has a need, whether it's cash flow, credit or merchant services."
Mabey said a major part of the focus over the next several years will be to simply make the recession "survivors" and new entrepreneurs know what's available to them; in essence, to educate them.
"It doesn't matter whether it's Augusta, Savannah or
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