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

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. Ramadan having an economic impact on local charities, businesses

    Economic Development

    TAMPA — Dodging the rain, a few families and customers gathered inside Petra Restaurant on Busch Boulevard. Around 8:30 p.m., the adham (or call to prayer) music begins, signaling Iftar, the end of the daily fast. Customers grabbed a plate to dig into the feast.

    Baha Abdullah, 35, the owner of the Sultan Market makes kataif, a common dessert that is eaten during the month long celebration of Ramadan in Tampa. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  2. Senate GOP leaders face tough job in selling health-care bill to their members


    WASHINGTON — Senate Republican leaders on Thursday moved swiftly to begin selling their health-care measure to substantially rewrite the Affordable Care Act to their wary members as they seek to garner enough support to pass the bill in an expected vote next week.

    U.S. Senate Republicans on Thursday unveiled a proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The bill's chief author, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has said "Obamacare is collapsing around us, and the American people are desperately searching for relief." [AP]
  3. Rick Scott eyes Patronis as CFO, but it may not help him in Panhandle

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott's expected pick of Jimmy Patronis as the state's next Chief Financial Officer would be a solid addition to the Republican Party ticket but may not do much to smooth some rough waters developing in the Panhandle over schools, area Republicans said this week.

    Former state Rep. Jimmy Patronis, left, is being considered by Gov. Rick Scott for the state's chief financial officer. Patronis, seen with Scott in 2011, is considered one of the governor's chief loyalists. 

  4. In your 20s and living with mom and dad? In Florida, you're not alone.

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — After graduating from the University of Florida in 2015, Gabrielle Piloto jumped on the highway and headed south to Tampa.

    Gabrielle Piloto, 22, moved home to live with her grandparents in West Tampa after graduating from the University of Florida in 2015. [MONICA HERNDON   |   Times]

  5. Southwest Airlines to offer flights from Tampa to San Diego


    TAMPA — Southwest Airlines will offer daily nonstop service from Tampa International Airport to San Diego International Airport beginning Jan. 8, 2018.

    Southwest Airlines is planning to launch service from Tampa to San Diego.
[Times file photo]