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SBA administrator highlights Paycheck Protection Program in visit to Pinellas County

Margie Manning

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Bob Bolline, CEO of Nautical Structures, led SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza on a factory tour.

A Paycheck Protection Program loan was a lifeline for a Largo manufacturer amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

“PPP gave us the confidence that we could continue doing what we needed to do and stay in competitive and make it through this period of time,” Peter Temko, financial controller at Nautical Structures Industries, told Jovita Carranza, head of the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Carranza visited Nautical Structures and Clearwater-based exporting business Equitus Corp. on Wednesday, to hear first-hand about how the SBA loan program helped them keep workers on the payroll.

Nautical Structures, a 34-year-old company that designs and manufactures specialty equipment for yachts and commercial vessels, received a PPP loan in April from Hancock Whitney Bank. The loan was in the $350,000 to $1 million range, according to an SBA database.

Nautical Structures has diversified into fabrication, manufacturing and assembly of non-boating products, such as water heater tanks, as CEO Bob Bolline showed SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza during a factory tour.

During a tour of the factory floor, Bob Bolline, CEO, told Carranza that he didn’t lose any of his 70 employees as a result of getting the loan.

“That’s why when we administered the Paycheck Protection Program, we didn’t see just brick and mortar,” Carranza said. “We realized that it was an employee who had a family, possibly children in school, and also they contribute to the community. It’s not just the employer and the infrastructure. It’s everything associated with that.”

Bolline recounted how early in the pandemic, he was on the phone late at night with one of his employees, a single father who needed time to care for his young child.

Bolline: “I said don’t worry. We’ve got you for two weeks, let’s just get through the two weeks and see what will happen. That’s when you guys immediately stepped in. It was incredible how fast it happened.”

Carranza: “I’ve spoken to owners with tears in their eyes about having to make that call and tell their employees they were going to be furloughed and if they lost that skill set or those employees it would be hard to regain.”

Bolline: “When you guys came in and got our backs I knew we were going to make it through this. I was able to hold on to all these skilled guys that have been here an average of 15 years. We could not afford to lose them and survive.”

Carranza: “That was the objective of the Paycheck Protection Program — retain the employees, pay the rent or the utilities and we knew entrepreneurs could figure out the rest.”

Carranza asked Bolline if he would be able to use another round of PPP, should that occur.

“Very much so because although we kept everybody employed, the economy went dead. The phone stopped ringing. We’re in a pretty serious situation for this year. It would help bolster us,” he said.

After the tour, in Nautical Structures’ conference room, Carranza asked how the company would respond to another spike in Covid-19 cases without a PPP lifeline. That likely would mean some targeted layoffs, Temko said.

Florida businesses overall have received more than 432,000 PPP loans totaling $32 billion, according to the SBA.

In addition to Paycheck Protection Program loans, the SBA also awarded billions in Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL). That’s a 30-year term loan and the fixed interest rate has dropped to 3 percent, Carranza said.

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