Rome Floyd Chamber

In the world of small-market banking and financial assistance, it’s all about relationships, relationships, relationships.

The Rome Floyd Chamber hosted a Minority Small Business Summit on Tuesday featuring the presidents of four community banks in Rome — and all four sounded the relationship theme in their remarks.

Georgia Power Northwest Regional Director Cassandra Wheeler moderated the videoconference and started off by reading from a TIME magazine article that pulled from a survey of 500 Black- and Hispanic-owned businesses. The article stated that only 12% of minority owned businesses received full financial assistance from the first round of Paycheck Protection Program funding through the CARES Act while two-thirds of the minority applicants did not receive any assistance at all.

Jarrod Johnson, owner of the Smoothie King franchise in Rome, explained how he was able to get full funding of his application, thanks to a relationship he had made with River City Bank President Jamie Tallent through the chamber.

“It is a relationship thing,” Johnson said. “Especially, I think, in a small town, you need to have a relationship with your banker ... I called Jamie and said what do I do and how do I get it?”

The funding enabled him to operate his business through the pandemic without laying off any of his employees.

David Lance, president of Greater Community Bank, said the small community banks had really separated themselves from the big national institutions during the crisis.

“It is all about relationships,” Lance said.

Tallent, at River City Bank, said banking is still all about people. He added that for anyone coming to their bank for financial assistance, a thorough knowledge and ability to explain both the short- and long-term business plans is critically important.

Ryan Earnest, president of Heritage First Bank, echoed that advice and told the summit participants to remember that their lender is fundamentally a silent partner in the business.

“Go meet a banker when you don’t need a banker,” said Scott Preston, president of the chamber and division president for Synovus Bank in Northwest Georgia.

“Banks want to be plugged in to their community,” Preston said.

Evie McNiece, who chairs the chamber Small Business Action Council, said the Small Business Development Center would be offering a number of free webinars in coming weeks. One is specifically aimed at helping with a survival strategy as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to linger.

Chamber President Jeanne Krueger told participants that there are plenty of opportunities for small minority-owned businesses to take advantage of sponsors willing to pay their first year dues to become members of the chamber.

“We have a unique opportunity right now to build new relationships and strengthen those that are already there,” said Lamante Attaud, owner of Tendo Technologies.

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