UPTURN: Dennis Adams of Celebrity Limousine says as his business goes, so goes the economy overall.
TREDYFFRIN TOWNSHIP, CHESTER COUNTY, Penn. — Dennis B. Adams believes his business is a good barometer of the economy as a whole.
In December 2008, the business, CELEBRITY LIMOUSINE SERVICE, first saw the effects of the downturn, and "the first two quarters of 2009 were horrendous," Adams recalled.
Before the recession hit the chauffeured transportation business, it had 75 employees and 55 cars. Adams had to cut his employee level to 50 and trimmed his fleet to 41 vehicles.
Today, Celebrity is on its way back up, having recently added 10 employees to keep up with improving demand.
"We're the first to feel it when everything stops, but we're also the first to feel it when things get going again," Adams said. "Business is getting back to traveling again. We're up 23 percent (in revenue) so far this year."
Business is strong enough that last week Adams held a small ceremony at Celebrity's Yellow Springs Road headquarters to mark his purchase of the building where he's operated the company for 15 years.
The purchase was made possible by a Small Business Administration-backed loan from Eagle National Bank of Villanova.
On hand at the ceremony were John Fleming, lead business development specialist for the SBA Philadelphia District Office; and Brian Bodo, a vice president in Eagle National's SBA Finance Group.
Fleming said the transaction was made possible by the much-maligned American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
With additional funding from the Recovery Act, the SBA increased the amount it can guarantee on loans from 75% to 90%. It also waives fees, which in Celebrity's case saved Adams around $35,000, Fleming said.
With the changes, 1,200 more community banks are participating in the SBA's loan programs nationwide, Fleming said.
"There's a lot of back and forth in the media about the Recovery Act, but in this case it saved Dennis $35,000 in fees," Fleming said, adding with a laugh, "I guess that's about half the cost of one of these Cadillacs."
Bodo said Eagle is the top lender of SBA 7(a) loans in the Philadelphia area, having approved 28 loans for $26 million in the last year.
"It's helped a lot," Bodo said of the Recovery Act funding for the program. "We would have still done the deal, but it would have cost Dennis an extra $36,000. We actually wish we just had more Dennises" to lend to.
Fleming said Celebrity's story "epitomizes the way a small business is able to make changes and survive. That's the advantage small businesses have sometimes over large corporations."
Adams agreed, but noted the recession was as difficult on his business as any other. "Shrinking the company to half the size it was, that was hard," he said. "I acted quickly. The companies that survived are the ones that acted quickly. With the hard recession we had, I feel lucky to be standing here today."
The recession also caused changes to Celebrity's fleet. The company used to have eight stretch limos, but now has only two.
CEOs, he said, didn't feel "it sent the right message" for employees to see them getting into a stretch limo during an economic crisis.
More popular now are vans and SUVs, Adams said. And the company recently added two Ford Fusion hybrids with extra leg room that get 38 miles to a gallon of gas. "A lot of companies like that because it is more in line with their 'green' philosophy," he said.
Source: Mainline Media News