The help and support Shelby Burkett has received from the Greater Texas Capital Corp. gives her piece of mind as she plans to grow her business.

Ms. Burkett, 29, has owned Mary V's, a longtime women's apparel and accessory business, for six years and is going through the process of getting a loan through Greater Texas Capital Corp. to construct a 5,000-square-foot store.

John Hart, 62, is president of the Tyler-based nonprofit economic development agency sanctioned by the Small Business Administration to provide loans to help small businesses throughout Texas start or grow.

Since its inception in 1995, Greater Texas Capital Corp. has done 400 projects and has 252 projects, of loans totaling $180 million, throughout the state in its portfolio. The organization has helped with loans in 155 cities and 64 counties.

In Smith County, 50 loans worth $32 million have been given to small businesses. Last year, four loans for $13 million, creating 46 jobs, were given here, Hart said.

"Our job is to stimulate the economy and create jobs through making available long-term, low-interest, fixed-rate loans to owner occupied business properties," Hart said.

The capital corporation was formed in Athens in 1995, and its headquarters moved to Tyler when Hart took over in 2000. He said a board of directors, made up of prominent businessmen and community leaders, approves all of the loans.

Hart's staff of 11 people puts the loan applications together, gets them approved by the bank and sends them to SBA for approval. Through bank financing and government assistance, it allows the small business owner to borrow at a low interest rate. He said it is also a lot less risky for banks.

Ms. Burkett attempted to go through the loan process on her own, but the Greater Texas Capital Corp.'s help made it easier and gave her more options with banks. Hart's team helped her look at things about her business that needed changing and spurred her on to be successful. Having a locked-in interest rate gives her peace of mind, knowing that it will give her business more flexibility financially in the future, she said.



Mary V's has been in Bergfeld Center for decades, but Ms. Burkett wanted to own her own building instead of paying rent. The new store will be in Swann Plaza off Old Jacksonville Highway.

The business will celebrate its 50th anniversary when she moves into the new store this fall. Getting to own her own property is a "big deal," she said.

"Being nervous about it, having the support of the SBA, we feel a lot more comfortable taking this big jump," Ms. Burkett said. It's nice to have someone who gets a business owner's dream of owning a building and "pushes along with you to realize that dream," she added.

Lloyd Nichols received two loans with the help of Greater Texas Capital Corp. for his Popeye's Louisiana Kitchen restaurants in Tyler.

He said getting a government-guaranteed loan through the SBA helps banks be more open to give loans to small-business owners. Without it, banks could require more money and assets that "as a little guy, you might not have," he said. The loans also allow the business owner to put a smaller percentage down and have a much lower interest rate.

In 2012, Nichols received his first loan to open Popeye's at 3820 W. Elm St. The second loan will be finalized this year for his second Popeye's, which he is opening Monday at Fifth Street and Golden Road.

Nichols will start out with about 70 employees and as business steadies, it will be lowered to about 35 workers, which is how many he has at his other Popeye's. Nichols also owns The Diner and Fit City Foods.



Other nearby counties where small businesses have been helped through Greater Texas Capital Corp. include Anderson, Cherokee, Gregg, Harrison, Henderson, Van Zandt and Wood counties. Small businesses that recently received loans include Sonoma Grill, Juls and Jack O' Diamonds Honda in Tyler and Trucker Treats in Jacksonville.

East Texas loans represent 13 percent of all corporation-approved loans in 2013.

In fiscal year 2013, Greater Texas Capital Corp. secured $58.8 million for 65 Texas small businesses.

"It's important because a lot of these projects would not happen without some sort of assistance," Hart said.

He used Andy's Frozen Custard in Tyler as an example.

When the franchise wanted to construct a kiosk on a $500,000 piece of land, lenders in Tyler would not approve a loan without Greater Texas Capital Corp. assistance, Hart said.

"It mitigates the lender's risk allowing them to do a loan they normally wouldn't do under conventional criteria," he said.

Hart said the program doesn't cost taxpayers anything. The bank and borrowers pay fees to participate in the program and the fees pay 100 percent of the administration cost of SBA program and any losses on loans that may be incurred.

Greater Texas Capital Corp. partners with small community banks, as well as regional and national banking organizations, to provide property and equipment financing solutions to a wide range of small businesses, including start-ups as well as existing and expanding businesses in the manufacturing, retail and service industries.

Loan proceeds can be used to finance the purchase, construction, expansion or renovation of owner-occupied commercial real estate and/or the acquisition and installation of machinery and equipment.

The SBA recently gave Greater Texas Capital Corp. a Pinnacle Award for being the No. 1 Certified Development Corp. in 504 lending in the Dallas-Fort Worth district.

Ms. Burkett said small businesses are a big part of the community.

"I'm such an advocate for all small businesses and any support they can get," she said. "And John Hart gives us that support."

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