Financial Services Advocate of the Year Featured

9:56am EDT July 22, 2002

A strong small business community benefits Central Ohio in many ways, says Steven C. Hines, vice president of National City Bank and the 1999 SBA Financial Services Advocate of the Year.

“We can start with growth, with employment opportunities and with maintaining a diverse community,” he explains. “Small business in many areas has been and will be the employer for the future. Every day of the week, more and more people are employed by small business than by large corporate employers.”

Hines knows about small business. He joined National City Bank [then Ohio National Bank] in 1973 after graduating from Bowling Green State University. He has spent most of his professional career in the small business lending area, recently moving into a retail credit position. He got involved in the Columbus Countywide Development Corp. 16 years ago and has served on its Loan Review Committee and all-volunteer board for several years, the last two as president.

“The initial thrust of Columbus Countywide was to support one of the lending programs of the Small Business Administration, the SBA 504, which provides excellent financing options for small businesses that are acquiring fixed assets, principally real estate,” explains Hines.

He says the organization has grown substantially because of the people involved and the general business community in Central Ohio.

“I have had the opportunity over the years to attend sessions throughout the country and talk to other bankers, and I think the business community in Central Ohio is much more attuned to small business than in many other areas of the country,” he said. “Locally, the SBA finds ways to put deals together and has an excellent working relationship with financial institutions. In many parts of the country, that’s not the way it has been.”

Hines was instrumental in raising the initial capital to start the Micro Loan Fund and the Columbus Growth Fund — two Columbus Countywide projects in which the SBA requires a loan loss reserve fund in the event a business is unable to repay the loan.

“We went to the financial institutions and asked for their participation and we were very fortunate,” says Hines. The $150,000 in fund-raising from five area banks enabled Columbus Countywide to borrow $1 million from the SBA for the Micro Loan Fund. The other fund involved $3 million, with half of the $500,000 loan loss reserve provided by the City of Columbus and the rest contributed by the five banks.

“They stepped up to the plate, and in both of those programs, they did fund those so that we had the loan loss reserve set up,” Hines said. “Now both of those programs are off the ground and moving.”

The loan loss reserve funds enable Columbus Countywide to take greater risks than banks are able to in making loans to small businesses, says Mark Barbash, executive director of Columbus Countywide.

“The purpose of these programs is to expand access to capital beyond that which a business can get from conventional lenders,” he said. “In order to do that, we have to create these financial tools that can be kind of unusual.”

Columbus Countywide has worked with the state on financing programs, Hines says, and has put together programs to benefit women in business and entrepreneurs just starting out.

Will Bowdish, a vice president at National City Bank who nominated Hines for the SBA award, says Hines has dedicated many years to “making things happen” in the small business community.

“Steve has gone out of his way, not just to be involved in CCDC, but to take a leadership position,” he says. “Through participation in new projects or programs that were available, Steve was instrumental in contributing to the growth at CCDC.”

Hines says involvement in the community is a two-way street. “You can’t just take in the business and reap the benefits. You’ve got to give back, and I have tried to do that through participation in Columbus Countywide and through participation in educational programs. And I have been very fortunate that National City Bank has given me the opportunity to do so many of these things.”

Columbus is fortunate, he adds, to have broad-based support across all business sectors.

“Locally, I find that most of the financial institutions and the people who deal with small business look for solutions instead of seeing obstacles. That’s what has made the overall growth in Central Ohio what it is today. It’s the environment; it’s the people here who try to put things together.”