When South Florida Engineering and Consulting (SFEC) won its first big contract with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to conduct a hydrologic assessment of the J.W. Corbett Wildlife Management Area 25 miles northeast of West Palm Beach, Thomas Conboy, owner and CEO, was ecstatic.
The SFEC team has extensive experience working in water resources engineering. Its team includes civil and environmental engineers, leading water resources experts, H&H modelers, planners, biologists, environmental scientists, technical writers and editors, certified planners, public meeting planners and facilitators, environmental permitting experts, QA/QC specialists, and GIS professionals.
Conboy had to hire staff to handle the size of the FWC project, but the business only got paid as individual project elements were completed, which sometimes took several months. He struggled to make weekly payroll.
“My personal home equity line of credit with a large bank that I had been using since 1994 was soon depleted. Even though my property value far exceeded the line of credit, my previous bank would not increase it,” Conboy said. “After applying to some online lending institutes that claimed to offer good interest rates, I found that they were five times the prime rate.”
That is when Conboy learned more about Small Business Administration (SBA) loans. He looked at the list of banks around him and Seacoast Bank stood out. He recognized the name having performed work for some of its customers. He called Seacoast and spoke with banker Cory Bell. He completed the application and had a line of credit equal to that on his house within 24 hours. He made payroll on time.
“Seacoast stands out to me because the bank assigns you a personal business banker that gets to know you and your business,” Conboy said. “They do this for all small businesses. I call Cory Bell every time I have a banking challenge. He helps me grow and navigate the financial system. I know I can trust him to give me good and fair advice.”
Seacoast has since helped Conboy with many critical parts of his business including the financing of several vehicles for his staff.
“We often work in remote areas with dirt roads or no roads at all,” Conboy said. “I can’t have my staff worrying about an old truck that might break down and leave them stranded in the middle of nowhere. Their vehicles have to be properly equipped and reliable.”
One of the most serious challenges Conboy and his business have faced began in March of this year (2020). Though the COVID-19 pandemic began affecting many businesses, Conboy found ways to continue to move forward with his company’s work. When working in the field they drive multiple vehicles to maintain social distancing from each other. Office work is conducted from home as much as possible. Conboy is the only person physically working in the business’s office. These efforts added some expense, but staff continued to move client work forward.
Despite their best efforts, Conboy’s clients faced challenges of their own and had to slow the pace at which they delivered work orders to his business. It wasn’t long before his cash flow would no longer cover the cost of payroll forcing him to use funds from SBA loans. When they were almost tapped out, he reached out to his Seacoast banker.
That’s when Conboy learned of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the opportunity to obtain a loan that could be used to cover payroll, rent payments and other business expenses. He immediately reached out to his Seacoast business banker.
“Despite my banker’s quick work in processing my application, we started too late to get a loan during the first round of PPP,” Conboy said. “As you can imagine, I was pretty anxious about getting a loan in the second round of PPP. My banker eased my nerves by keeping us up to date every step of the way.”
Conboy’s Seacoast banker helped him make sense of the confusing PPP process and found a submittal route for his loan.
“The next morning, my Seacoast banker called me to say the loan application was received overnight,” Conboy said. “A few days later I signed loan documents online. One week later the funds were deposited into our operating account. Had we not received these funds we would not have been able to meet payroll that week.”
Conboy said the funds will be used to meet payroll, rent, and utilities. He also plans to add health insurance for his team. While waiting for client workflow to return, Conboy has kept his team busy writing proposals for future work.
“We have been able to keep people working and keep paychecks coming out on time,” Conboy said. “With the proposals we have out right now we are confident we will survive this downturn.”