Monday, May 21, 2018
Business

SBA loan helped Tampa company survive by going big overseas

TAMPA — As the recession threatened to shutter Trucks-E-Quip Inc. after nearly half a century, Carl Larson realized he had one option to save his business: go big.

Larson used a $1 million loan from the Small Business Administration to expand his business overseas because his domestic market had collapsed.

It worked. Six years after he got his federal loan, Trucks-E-Quip is still in business, buying, selling and shipping semitrailer trucks and construction equipment here and abroad.

"Our biggest exporter is Nigeria," said Larson, 72. "Panama. Jamaica. We've done some work in Belgium, some in Costa Rica. Belize. Not so much in Brazil."

During a press tour of the company's 150,000-square-foot depot in east Hillsborough County on Friday, U.S. Small Business Administrator Karen Mills touted Larson's business as an example of how the SBA is trying to meet President Obama's goal to double the nation's exports by 2014. Last year U.S. exports set a record of $2.2 trillion, according to the agency.

"The president is very focused on exports," Mills said. "When we started the National Export Initiative … the idea was to double exports in five years, and we're well on track.

"But the real engine for that is small-business exports. They are the fastest-growing segment. … Carl here is a great example of the story of exporting."

But Larson said his story is an example of something else: the recoveryless recovery. After past recessions, pent-up demand helped bolster his business. Not so much this time.

"Sometimes coming out of a recession, I've had the best years of my life," he said. "But it's not happening — yet. It's a slow recovery."

Larson's business is built around reselling used semitrailers for a fraction of the six-figure price commanded by new trucks. Before the downturn, Trucks-E-Quip, would buy, sell and distribute up to 1,500 trucks a year. Now that's down to 300.

But at least the company survived. Before the downturn, about 25 percent of his business went overseas. During the downturn, it was 80 to 90 percent. Now domestic and foreign business is evenly split. But foreign business is what kept Trucks-E-Quip alive.

"Except for exports, we probably couldn't have stayed in business because there was no money domestically," Larson said. "Companies weren't doing anything. They were just sitting back on their hands, hoping things would change."

Larson's company, which includes five employees, also got a $2 million loan from C1 Bank. Larson and one of his employees, Nelson Brown, said they know plenty of truckers who got squeezed during the recession and now can't get the loans they need to get back into the business.

"We live in a capitalist system," said Brown, 61. "But you need capital."

Mills assured both men that SBA could help with that situation. But sequestration won't help any. The automatic federal budget cuts that took effect March 1 will affect the SBA's ability to lend out money, expertise and advice.

"Small businesses are going to feel the cutbacks of sequestration," Mills said.

Jamal Thalji can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3404.

Comments
Shoppers begin Publix boycott as chain continues supporting Adam Putnam for governor

Shoppers begin Publix boycott as chain continues supporting Adam Putnam for governor

Publix has been Floridaís favorite grocery chain for decades ó but some shoppers are turning their backs on the store after learning it donated more than half a million dollars to gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam. A handful of state advocacy group...
Updated: 2 hours ago
GasBuddy predicts plunge in summer travel, blames gas prices

GasBuddy predicts plunge in summer travel, blames gas prices

At least one gas price tracker expects rising fuel prices to sharply curtail summer travel. "For all those that have said summer travel will be unaffected by high gas prices, we offer thousands of respondents who have strongly indicated thatís not tr...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Construction poised to begin this week on four-story boutique hotel in Ybor City

Construction poised to begin this week on four-story boutique hotel in Ybor City

TAMPA ó A ceremony marking the start of construction on a four-story, $32 million boutique hotel at 1402 E Seventh Avenue has been set for Thursday.The site is now a parking lot, but plans on file with the city of Tampa outline a hotel project with 1...
Updated: 4 hours ago
FPL parent wants to expand its Florida footprint with new purchase

FPL parent wants to expand its Florida footprint with new purchase

TALLAHASSEE ó The parent company of Florida utility giant Florida Power & Light announced Monday that it will buy the largest electricity producer in Northwest Florida, Gulf Power, in a $6.4 billion deal.Juno Beach-based NextEra Energy Inc. said in a...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Barack and Michelle Obama are becoming television and film producers for Netflix

Barack and Michelle Obama are becoming television and film producers for Netflix

Netflix announced a production deal Monday with Barack and Michelle Obama that will see the former first couple create a wide range of content for the streaming service.The deal, talks for which had first been reported in March, will encompass a wide...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Starbucks: You donít have to buy coffee to sit in our cafes or use our restrooms

Starbucks: You donít have to buy coffee to sit in our cafes or use our restrooms

Starbucks is now allowing people to use its restrooms and sit in its cafes and patios even if they do not buy anything.The coffee giant on Saturday announced its new policy, which says that customers, including those who did not make a purchase, can ...
Updated: 11 hours ago

Hernando Business Digest for May 25

Business digestBrieflyHOSPITAL UPGRADES SURGICAL SYSTEM: Oak Hill Hospital recently acquired the latest da Vinci Xi Surgical System, which has broader capabilities than prior generations of the system. The new system is designed with the goal of furt...
Published: 05/21/18
Camping without the hassle: New service rents you all the gear you need, plus the car

Camping without the hassle: New service rents you all the gear you need, plus the car

One day in April, I returned from a camping trip - a quick 24 out of the city - and ran a load of laundry. Whatís more telling is what I didnít do.I didnít hose down a muddy tent, I didnít soak a shoddily cleaned pot, and I categorically did not empt...
Published: 05/19/18
Romano: Save your money, sports betting wonít be in Florida anytime soon

Romano: Save your money, sports betting wonít be in Florida anytime soon

It is the middle of the day and the beginning of the off-season at Tampa Bay Downs. That means the action is limited to simulcast wagering, and that means the televisions outnumber the bettors.The parimutuel industry is long past its heyday in Americ...
Published: 05/19/18
Son of Crabby Billís founder leaves complex legacy of troubled projects and good deeds

Son of Crabby Billís founder leaves complex legacy of troubled projects and good deeds

SOUTH PASADENA ó Like his father, who founded the Crabby Billís seafood restaurant chain, John Loder Sr. had a larger-than-life personality. That was one reason he dived into the real estate business, becoming a well-known, if at times controversial ...
Updated: 8 hours ago