Make us your home page

Clearwater small business man challenging credit crunch, now testifying before Congress

Frustrated Clearwater small businessman Steve Gordon so wanted President Barack Obama to call on him at the Jan. 28 University of Tampa town hall meeting. He arrived early, chose an aisle seat to be near a microphone and, invoking his lucky number seven, sat on the seventh bleacher row.

"I was determined," Gordon, 53, said Wednesday. "I prayed, 'Please God, let this be my day.' "

The president was in town to unveil a federal grant for a high-speed rail link between Tampa and Orlando. He took six questions that day from a crowd of 3,800.

Gordon got his improbable chance and delivered his own high-speed rail about the plight of small businesses that want to expand but cannot find any lenders willing to extend credit during this deep recession.

It's no exaggeration. Wednesday's big, front-page headline in the Wall Street Journal proclaims: Lending Falls at Epic Pace.

Captured on TV news, the exchange between Gordon and Obama resonated with small business owners nationwide who suffer the same credit crunch. The Clearwater businessman, who makes the Instant-Off water-saving device for faucets, has received many messages of support. And his appeal to Obama earned him a lengthy Q&A in the New York Times.

Now Gordon has been invited to testify Friday on Capitol Hill before a joint hearing of the full House Financial Services Committee and the House Committee on Small Business.

Steve the Small Business Guy has become the new Joe the Plumber, the latest main street guy to feel like no one is on his side in Washington.

Gordon will be one of five small business owners to testify. They will be followed by a second panel of six bank and small business regulators. A third panel of nine bankers and other lenders will conclude the hearing.

Since banks won't lend, Gordon says he will testify that the government should become more of a direct lender to small businesses via its Small Business Administration. He also will call for broadening the criteria for lending beyond a borrower's narrow FICO credit score.

"I'm just honored to be speaking for all the small businesses that do not have a voice," says Gordon, who will travel with his 11-year-old son to Washington.

Gordon's Instant-Off device is sold at Home Depot, among other places, for about $8. Gordon wants to expand his 19-year-old business of five full-time and 30 part-time workers, because he's convinced his device has global potential and can save hundreds of millions of gallons of water, if it can be widely used.

This guy is enthusiastic and obviously does not hesitate to wade into the fray if he thinks something needs fixing. That's one reason Gordon ran for mayor of St. Pete Beach eight years ago. He lost to an incumbent, but the race was reasonably close. Gordon also pitched his faucet invention at the recent Discovery Channel invention competition in Tampa for a chance to be on the cable TV show PitchMen. He was a finalist.

But Friday's testimony in Washington will be a pitch for small business loans. "This is not a big media thing," Gordon says. "This is about America's situation, right in the middle of a job crisis."

Robert Trigaux can be reached at [email protected]

Clearwater small business man challenging credit crunch, now testifying before Congress 02/24/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 24, 2010 11:01pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Carrollwood fitness center employs scientific protocol to help clients


    In 2005, Al Roach and Virginia Phillips, husband and wife, opened 20 Minutes to Fitness in Lakewood Ranch, and last month they opened the doors to their new location in Carrollwood.

    Preston Fisher, a personal fitness coach at 20 Minutes To Fitness, stands with an iPad while general manager/owner Angela Begin conducts an equipment demonstration. The iPad is used to track each client's information and progress. I also included one shot of just the equipment. The center recently opened in Carrollwood. Photo by Danielle Hauser.
  2. Olive Tree branches out to Wesley Chapel


    WESLEY CHAPEL — When it came time to open a second location of The Olive Tree, owners John and Donna Woelfel, decided that Wesley Chapel was the perfect place.

    The Olive Tree expands its offerings of "ultra premium?€ extra virgin olive oils (EVOO) to a second location in Wesley Chapel. Photo by Danielle Hauser.
  3. Massachusetts firm buys Tampa's Element apartment tower

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — Downtown Tampa's Element apartment tower sold this week to a Massachusetts-based real estate investment company that plans to upgrade the skyscraper's amenities and operate it long-term as a rental community.

    The Element apartment high-rise at 808 N Franklin St. in downtown Tampa has been sold to a Northland Investment Corp., a Massachusetts-based real estate investment company. JIM DAMASKE  |  Times
  4. New York town approves Legoland proposal


    GOSHEN, N.Y. — New York is one step closer to a Lego dreamland. Goshen, a small town about fifty miles northwest of the Big Apple, has approved the site plan for a $500 million Legoland amusement park.

    A small New York town, Goshen approved the site plan for a $500 million Legoland amusement park. Legoland Florida is in Winter Haven. [Times file  photo]
  5. Jordan Park to get $20 million makeover and new senior housing

    Real Estate


    Times Staff Writer

    ST. PETERSBURG —The St. Petersburg Housing Authority, which bought back the troubled Jordan Park public housing complex this year, plans to spend about $20 million to improve the 237-unit property and construct a new three-story building for …

    Jordan Park, the historic public housing complex, is back in the hands of the St. Petersburg Housing Authority. The agency is working to improve the 237-unit complex. But the latest plan to build a new three-story building for seniors will mean 31 families have to find new homes. [LARA CERRI   |   Tampa Bay Times]