Frustration with development process inspires adWritten by Kristen Criswell | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Mike LaHote said he took out a full-page ad with Toledo Free Press because he wanted “the average taxpayer to see what goes on behind the scenes when trying to grow a business.”
LaHote is Sylvania president of MFP Motorsports, a company that makes custom fiberglass parts for cars. Eighteen months ago, he began approaching banks for loans to expand his small business.
LaHote said he faced frustrating obstacles and he and his business associate Robert Simmers decided to take out the ad. They complimented some, criticized others.
“When the banks don’t want to make loans anyway, I guess any thoughts of economic development are moot. Don’t pretend that economic development is viable if the banks won’t loan,” Simmers said.
“The ad is not accusing anyone, it’s just a documentation of what we went through as we were trying to grow,” LaHote said. “We’re not accusing them of wrongdoing; we were in the position to grow and weren’t able to get any funding.”
The ad names banks LaHote approached for loans, as well as a list of names from the region that LaHote approached for help in expanding his business.
The banks named in the ad were contacted; all said it was policy to not comment on why loans are denied to specific individuals or companies.
Lucas County Commissioners Ben Konop and Pete Gerken were listed as people LaHote tried to contact for business help. Konop’s executive assistant, Joe Vardon, was reached but declined comment.
Gerken said he remembers speaking with LaHote.
“We had at least one conversation about the financial hurdles he’s faced over the years. I referred him to an LCIC as I would with anyone else. I treated him with respect and arranged a meeting at the LCIC for him,” Gerken said.
Members of the Lucas County Improvement Corporation (LCIC) listed in the ad were Brian Bilger, economic development manager, Shad Williams, business retention specialist and Theodore Foreman, economic development specialist.
Bilger had no comment about the advertisement because he could not remember the particular company, but said any reason a Link deposit may have been turned down would be in the treasurer’s office.
Williams said the Link deposit is money placed in a CD to get businesses a lower rate from the banks.
“We don’t have our own money to lend,” Williams said. “The lenders perform the underwriting. We say no when the lender says no.”
In reference to the ad, Williams said he is a civil servant and has to do his job, meaning he must treat everyone equally.
Foreman said his work with clients is confidential, but said times are tough for businesses.
“Small businesses are having a difficult time receiving loans. They must have immaculate credit, which is almost impossible and challenging for all business,” Foreman said.
Jill Pershing is loan officer for the city. Pershing said she is on the backend monitoring the loans and monitoring the projects after they have been completed. She said she does not recall speaking with LaHote.
The Service Corp of Retired Executives (SCORE) office of Dave Hanson and Jack Chezek declined to comment.
Bill Wersell of the Chamber of Commerce said he can not acknowledge or make a comment about the ad because he is part of a confidential consulting service.
Mayoral candidate Mike Bell said without the full content of the ad, he could make no comment.
Mayoral candidate Keith Wilkowski was reached but declined comment.
Toledo City Council members Wilma Brown, Mike Craig, Mike Beazley and Ryan Reiter could not be reached.
Andrew Ferrara, Anthony Jones and Aggie Dahar all left their positions and could not be reached for comment.
Mike Yhollahan could not be confirmed as ever having worked for the Lucas County Chamber of Commerce.
“I hope the public is more aware of how hard it is for small business to grow. Hopefully the politicians will maybe be made aware of things they might not be privy to and make change,” LaHote said.