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Tuesday, Nov 28, 2023


A new federal loan program targeted to communities deemed to have been hurt by the North American Free Trade Agreement is getting few takers in L.A. Just one loan has been made for a business in Pacoima, the only Los Angeles neighborhood that has been targeted for the Small Business Administration program. “It sounds like either the program isn’t reaching people or it isn’t relevant,” said Hugh Loftus, director of the Los Angeles office of the North American Development Bank. NADbank, which is jointly capitalized and governed by the United States and Mexico, funds the loan program with a $20 million budget drawn from federal money. The Community and Investment Program offers standard SBA-backed, low-interest loans with some additional features designed to reduce the cost of business loans. CAIP absorbs the borrower’s loan guarantee fees and also pays some of the bank costs associated with SBA loans. From its inception last fall through the beginning of February, 43 SBA loans totaling $10.5 million have been issued nationwide. Loftus said that, on average, the CAIP has issued about five loans a week in each of the 30 areas that have been targeted. Loftus and others cited a number of factors that may deter borrowers in L.A.. They point out that under CAIP guidelines, companies must hire one employee for every $70,000 borrowed, which may make the cost too steep for some. And Pacoima business owners already have access to other lending programs, some with less stringent requirements with respect to cash flow and credit history. But the lone local borrower so far may have identified another reason that the program has gone untapped. Randy Landsberger, said he never would have heard of the program if his secretary hadn’t come across a reference to it in the newspaper one day. With his brother Bruce, Landsberger used the $300,000 loan to finance the acquisition of Sequoia Inc., a Pacoima-based maker of window shutters. He already had a loan application in the pipeline when he brought the program to the attention to the Bank of Hollywood. Bank officials, also unaware of the program, re-filed the loan under CAIP and later refunded the guarantee costs Landsberger had paid with his original application. Landsberger, who also owns Alpine Shutters Inc., in Burbank and Lucy’s LaundryMart in East Hollywood, said the money he borrowed allowed him to finance 90 percent of his new company. The savings on the CAIP loan totaled $10,000. “If I were to add up the savings I had on the fees from the SBA loan and the lower interest payment, that would equate to my 10 percent down,” he said. “When you look at that savings, it’s very substantial.” Targeted communities must have lost at least 500 jobs within the past two years as a result of relocations or closings due to competitive pressure created by NAFTA. Also required was an unemployment rate of at least 6.5 percent. Pacoima lost more than 500 jobs when one of its largest employers, Price Pfister Inc., moved to Mexicali, Mexico in late 1996. Program officials said the city doesn’t track unemployment data for Pacoima, but the unemployment rate in L.A. County was 7.2 percent at the time the selections were made. Though other communities are likely to have lost jobs and businesses due to the trade agreement, those firms may have closed up quietly, either because their employees were illegal immigrants or because they did not accurately report their revenues for tax purposes. Other local communities that have lost businesses due to NAFTA, such as Torrance, did not have unemployment levels high enough to qualify, Loftus said.

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