04/04/2012 11:10 am ET Updated Jun 04, 2012

Colorado Bankers Answer Call for Small-Business Access to Capital

Bankers have been called nasty names for years by small-business owners who have been denied credit, but the Colorado Bankers Association has launched an effort that could change that.

Through a website,, Colorado bankers are beginning to refer customers who don't qualify for their loans to other organizations around the state that might find a way for the cash-strapped owner to find capital he or she needs to grow.

I've been covering small business in Colorado for more than 20 years, and this effort is the first I've seen between agencies of government and large commercial banks to solve the "access to capital" problem that is a perennial complaint of small-business owners who don't qualify for bank loans.

If you try it, it might actually work.

When you go to the website, you see a cup of coffee beside a napkin with a hand-drawn diagram describing a business owner's route to successful financing. Below the napkin, three links are shown to get you started:

  1. Before You Seek Funding
  2. Steps to Securing Funding
  3. Advice and Resources

Click on "Advice and Resources" and you'll find a list of organizations that joined with the bankers to create the guide, all conveniently linked so you can go directly to them for more information. The list starts with ACCION, a small-business lender that operates in Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona, whose reputation for actually lending money to businesses has grown large over the last three years.

The list continues with: the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry, a statewide chamber of commerce; the Colorado Enterprise Fund, a nonprofit lending source that can loan a business up to $250,000; the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade, a state agency; the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority, another active lender to small business; the Denver Office of Economic Development and 10 more resources available to small businesses looking for financing they cannot get from banks.

But the member banks of the CBA are all supporting the effort to find money for firms and companies they cannot make their own customers. That is the unusual and unprecedented nature of this most recent effort to solve the "access to capital" problem.

"All of the CBA members were involved in the project," said Christie Drumm, vice president of communications for Wells Fargo & Co. in Colorado.

She said Wells Fargo, which was the nation's and Colorado's number one lender of SBA guaranteed loans in 2011, is instructing its small-business loan officers throughout the state to spread the word about the bankers' association website in order to educate business owners looking for credit that "there are other options" if traditional bank lending is not available to them.

Caroline Joy, who was the project director for launching for the bankers' association, said the effort grew out of Gov. John Hickenlooper's Colorado Blueprint, a statewide plan for economic development.

The blueprint "saw a need to demystify the lending process," Joy said, and the bankers' association interpreted that citizen demand as a cry for "pulling down the walls of the silos" that separated lenders and other institutions who were ready to help small businesses grow and create new jobs.

"If a bank can't help you," Joy said, "we want to help you find another place that can."