“Like many small-business owners, Mike Cimorelli, founder and president of Sacramento-based TI Builders Inc., decided it was worth applying for a Paycheck Protection Program loan. And also like many small-business owners, he didn’t hear a whole lot back when he did so through his bank, Bank of America.
Safe to say, though, not all business owners would do what he did: Cimorelli fired off a flurry of emails, many of them in the middle of the night, to anyone he could think of at Bank of America. In some cases, that meant guessing a high-level executive’s email, based on the naming convention used for other accounts.
Whether it made a difference or not, such diligence paid off last week, Cimorelli said, when he learned he’d get the full amount he was asking for. Through the federal plan, banks and other lenders make loans that are guaranteed by the Small Business Administration. The loans may be forgiven if borrowers spend at least 75% of the proceeds on payroll and if other conditions are met.
“At least in the short term, we’ll be all right,” said Cimorelli, whose construction firm specializes in tenant improvements and operates in Sacramento, Southern California and Nashville, Tennessee. “We’re going to follow their goals and make sure we follow all the rules and regulations.”
Cimorelli wouldn’t disclose how much he’d asked for or received. But the PPP money will be spent on salaries, enabling him to keep all of his company’s 16 employees, he said.
The news TI Builders would get money ended a frustrating road, Cimorelli said. That road started when he and his sons, also part of the company, thoroughly researched what was necessary before banks began accepting PPP applications on April 3.
Weeks went by, but the only reply Cimorelli said he got was from bank representatives telling him his application was in the queue. “What does that even mean?” he said he recalled thinking.
So he looked up Bank of America’s board of directors, and started sending blind emails. He used a bit of media leverage, including a brief clip of him speaking on Fox News about how small businesses were missing out on PPP funding. Cimorelli said a Sacramento Business Journal story in early April about his initial application led to a Yahoo News story and then the Fox News appearance.
“I didn’t completely slam them, but I hammered them,” he said of the emails, mentioning the lack of response from his bank reps.
After two hours of writing emails, he heard back on a Saturday from the Bank of America executive who oversees small business accounts. He even got an email from Bank of America’s CEO, Brian Moynihan, as well. Though they had the same message reassuring him that his application was in the queue, he said, at least he knew someone was paying attention.
TI Builders’ application was already waiting, then, when a second round of the PPP opened on April 27. Days later, Cimorelli said, he got the news that he had been approved.
With the short-term concern about funding alleviated, he said his next concern is keeping the workflow moving. Most of his company’s jobs last two to three months, which means jobs started before the Covid-19 pandemic began in March are now wrapping up.
“We need to plan stuff through the end of the year,” he said. “What does the end of the year look like with this?””