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CFO Alex Sink to Bernanke: Work Together to Strengthen Small Business Lending

7/19/2010

CONTACT: Kevin Cate, 850-413-2842
 
TALLAHASSEE— Florida CFO Alex Sink today called on the Chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve Dr. Ben Bernanke to host a town hall meeting in Pensacola with the Florida Bankers Association, the Florida Office of Financial Regulation (OFR), local bankers and small business owners to promote an understanding of how regulators and banks can work together to handle the economic impact of the Gulf Oil Spill and improve access to credit to strengthen small businesses in Northwest Florida.
 
“Florida businesses and banks are hurting, and we need all of our regulators to understand the issues, to work together and to work with us,” wrote CFO Alex Sink. “I would be delighted to work with the Florida Bankers Association and the Florida Office of Financial Regulation (OFR) to host a town hall meeting in Pensacola so that Gulf Coast businesses, bankers and their field regulators could understand what’s needed to work effectively to mitigate further damage to their economy.”
 
A copy of the letter follows below:
 
July 19, 2010
 
Dr. Ben Bernanke
Chairman of the Board of Governors
Federal Reserve System
20th Street and Constitution Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20551
 
Dear Chairman Bernanke:
 
I have read and applaud the comments you made at a recent Federal Reserve Meeting Series in Washington D.C. on restoring the flow of credit to small businesses.  Thank you for your comments regarding the inability of small businesses to access credit.  You are right on target.  I continue to hear a growing chorus of the same concerns about banks not lending to small businesses all over Florida.
 
In Florida, 96 percent of job creation is reliant on small business.  With unemployment in our state at 11.4 percent, making credit available for our small businesses is vital to our economic recovery.  It is absolutely critical that regulators hold banks accountable and as you said in your remarks, “work with lenders to help them do all that they prudently can to lend to small, creditworthy businesses.”
 
Small businesses, particularly those in their early years, are central to creating jobs in our economy, and they continue to report that access to credit remains very difficult.  We continue to hear this same concern from established businesses as well, battling the very issues discussed in your remarks when turning to their banks for ongoing or new credit. 
 
Two weeks ago, I asked the Florida Bankers Association to host a call with Florida’s bankers to obtain a better understanding of the impact of the oil spill on our banks and their customers.  The challenging effects of the oil spill are more than enough for our bankers in Northwest Florida to tackle, but what I found most disturbing were the stories from individual bankers that illustrate the disconnect between your remarks and the reality of what these bankers are dealing with every day from their regulators.
 
Your account of the more than 40 sessions around the country, especially your meeting in Detroit, and the suggestion of one of our bankers in Florida inspire me to ask you to do one more session in Northwest Florida.  We believe that it’s important that you understand the unique challenges being placed on our small businesses, our bankers and our regulators who are dealing with a prolonged recession now greatly exacerbated by the economic devastation of the oil spill.
 
I would be delighted to work with the Florida Bankers Association and the Florida Office of Financial Regulation (OFR) to host a town hall meeting in Pensacola so that Gulf Coast businesses, bankers and their field regulators could understand what’s needed to work effectively to mitigate further damage to their economy.
 
I encourage you to bring your colleagues FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair, OTS Director John Bowman and OCC Comptroller John C. Dugan along with their top field inspectors for this region to meet with Florida and Gulf Coast businesses, bankers and Florida’s OFR Commissioner Tom Cardwell to further a shared understanding of how we can all work together to improve responsible access to credit and strengthen the small businesses that are the engine of our economy.
 
Florida businesses and banks are hurting, and we need all of our regulators to understand the issues, to work together and to work with us.  Again, I thank you for your remarks on this important topic, and I appreciate your support of an increase in lending to small businesses.  I look forward to working with you and offer you the resources of my office to support this important economic initiative.
 
Sincerely,
 
 
 
Alex Sink