Business has slowed for many small companies in Durango compared with a year ago, forcing some to seek a line of credit to cover general expenses.
But with the ailing economy, finding a loan has not been as easy as it once was - at least for some businesses, said Joe Keck, director of the Small Business Development Center at Fort Lewis College.
"Things have been really tight," Keck said. "Part of it is the national economy and the financial meltdown."
Gov. Bill Ritter on Tuesday visited Durango to encourage small businesses to pursue all avenues to secure capital before giving up. Likewise, he encouraged lenders to do all they can to assist small businesses.
About 85 local businesses were represented at Tuesday's forum, called Surviving Tough Times, which offered financial advice for making it through the downturn.
The U.S. Small Business Administration met one-on-one with about 30 business owners looking to consolidate debt or obtain marketing assistance.
Termar Trends, a gallery at 780 Main Ave., is one example of a business that might seek a line of credit to cover general expenses this year, said Naomi Beans, who has owned the gallery with her husband, Yandell, since 2000.
The business was forced to close for several weeks last year because of smoke damage sustained in the fire that destroyed Seasons Rotisserie & Grill, Half-Price Tees and Le Rendezvous Swiss Bakery and Café.
On top of that, the recession hit, and the first part of the year is always the slowest, she said.
The Beans have good credit ratings, which means they probably won't have a problem obtaining capital, Naomi Beans said.
"When it comes to loans, I guess we're fairly fortunate," she said. "We've had a line of credit if we need it. It is still accessible to us. Business is certainly down relative to the past."
Jay Marqua, who served as a counselor during Tuesday's forum on behalf of the Small Business Development Center at FLC, said local businesses recognize sales cycles are being affected, and they are taking appropriate steps to stay afloat.
"They're looking at what they do, and they're coming up with creative solutions on how to adjust to the market," said Marqua, who is also the chief operating officer of Syndicom, which specializes in Web-based tools for health-care professionals. "I think the majority of them are going to make it."
He encouraged the small-business community to recognize it has support groups in this region, including the Small Business Development Center, Region 9 Economic Development District of Southwest Colorado and Fort Lewis College.
"If everybody established relationships with those three entities, they would be much more aware of resources available to them - everything from training to debts to understanding how to do grant writing," Marqua said.
The business owners who met with Marqua on Tuesday were interested in financing options or renegotiating existing credit lines, he said.
Some people were seeking new loans, but they had plans to support the new credit, he said.
Durango has seen a slowdown in the number of small-business loan applications, said Kent Curtis, senior vice president and chief lending officer at First National Bank of Durango.
Some businesses are simply not interested in expanding right now, and others have a misconception that banks are not willing to make loans at this time, he said.
"Small-business owners need to go down and talk to their banks," Curtis said. "There's this perception that we're not doing loans, and that's incorrect."
The local economy has been fairly well insulated from what is happing on a national level, he said, and local banks are generally willing to support good business plans.