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January 24
1888 - Acton post office established; Richard E. Nickel, postmaster [story]
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After a well-established Santa Clarita Valley small business’s application for a federal Paycheck Protection Program or PPP loan got hung up in a big bank’s bureaucracy for almost a month, the business owner contacted a local bank to come to the rescue.

Mission Valley Bank’s CEO and small business team took the helm and navigated the company’s PPP application to approval and funding — in a week.

“The ‘big bank’ did not get this done for me – in spite of my being a 30-year customer,” said Gary Saenger, founder and president of Saenger Associates – Retained Executive Search Consultants.

Headquartered in Santa Clarita since 1999, Saenger Associates specializes in helping corporate manufacturing and distribution clients in the Aerospace, Industrial and Consumer Products sectors fill C-level executive and senior management positions. Saenger’s team has been working remotely since late February.

Chartered in 2001, Mission Valley Bank has offices in Santa Clarita and Torrance, with its main branch in Sunland.

Part of the nearly $3 trillion in CARES Act relief passed by Congress in April, the Paycheck Protection Program was designed to help small business owners cover their payroll during closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. PPP loans through the Small Business Association become grants if the owners use the funds to pay employees.

ppp loan

Business owners applied for PPP loans through their banks, which were initially overwhelmed by applications and under-prepared due to less than timely guidance on the program from Treasury Department officials. The plan’s initial $500 billion in funding was quickly depleted, prompting another $350 billion infusion.

Some business owners received funding quickly, while others did not, for myriad reasons.

In Saenger Associates’ case, the company did not — but for reasons that remain a mystery weeks later.

ppp loan

Gary L. Saenger, Founder-President, Saenger Associates – Retained Executive Search Consultants

The ordeal began with Saenger Associates’ PPP application through his company’s longtime bank on April 3. An email from the bank and a brief phone call from a loan officer two days later confirmed the bank had received the application.

For the next 10 days, Saenger and SA VP Myrna Bell, the key player on Saenger Associates’ team, heard nothing from the bank, though they phoned and emailed the loan officer dozens of times requesting status of the loan.

“We received an email on April 13 requesting more information, which we provided,” Bell said. “After that, when we asked for updates, we only received generic email auto-response.”

Saenger and Bell tried the bank’s client officer, who knew nothing and could do nothing to help get answers.

After three weeks of abysmal customer service, Saenger decided to reach out to Tamara Gurney, Mission Valley Bank’s CEO – late on Friday afternoon, April 24.

ppp loan tamara gurney

Tamara Gurney, CEO, Mission Valley Bank

“We’re both colleagues on the Boards of the Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corporation and the College of the Canyons Foundation,” Saenger said.

“Gary was very concerned because he hadn’t heard anything from his bank and was worried his company would miss out on the program,” Gurney said.

“She emailed back within an hour, provided forms, requested lots of data, and then five hours later, called me with the first update on our application,” Saenger said.

“Her personal call back to me – remember she is the CEO of a bank – was at 9:45 on a Friday night,” he said.

Working with Bell, Saenger Associates’ key player, Gurney and her team got our application through the process over the weekend. The PPP loan was approved on Tuesday and funded on Friday. The whole process took just a week.

Gurney enlisted no fewer than half a dozen Mission Valley Bank staffers to make it happen that fast.

Steve Choe, SVP-Sales Manager, was the point person, and Steve Nunez is the VP-Relationship Manager who compiled and reviewed the package, which was sent to underwriting with Rovee Tisoy. Rachel Carrillo managed the tracking logs to make sure things moved through the process efficiently and MVB had everything needed to get an SBA PPP number for Saenger Associates. Helen Msryan handled the new account opening, while Jean Mitchell did the loan documentation and boarding/funding the loan.

“The team has really pulled together and is working amazingly well, as most are remote,” Gurney said. “And many are single parents who are working a full day while also home-schooling and/or babysitting kids.”

“There was excellent communication, with multiple calls, emails and texts from Tamara and her team updating us,” Saenger said. “They 100% cared about me, and about my business. I was floored by that level of caring and get-it-done attitude.”

ppp loan mission valley bank

Gurney noted she has received hundreds of calls and emails from other local small business owners like Saenger, seeking assistance with securing PPP loans – “my inbox has more than 4,000 emails” – and expects the demand to spike again.

“After the 8 weeks to spend the PPP money and borrowers start looking for loan forgiveness, I anticipate we will have hundreds more calls asking for help navigating the process and working through issues and information needed to get forgiveness, or to deal with a new loan to handle what isn’t forgiven,” she said.

Mission Valley Bank’s ability to provide personalized customer service for small business owners like Saenger bodes well for their mutual post-pandemic survival, although the bank faces its own set of challenges.

“From a financial perspective, Mission Valley Bank will not weather [the pandemic] well,” Gurney said. “Almost all loans are on deferral, more than $500k interest income is gone, many loans will default as small businesses suffer and may close. We don’t expect to make even half of the income we did in 2019 this year.

“But in spite of the short-term financial impact, Mission Valley Bank’s very strong liquidity and capital are more than sufficient to sustain it through this crisis and provide a strong foundation for the future,” she said. “And we’re all healthy, safe and well, which is the most important thing.”

Both Saenger and Gurney intend to keep it that way, for themselves, their employees, and their families – even after L.A. County and the state of California began to ease some business closures and stay-at-home restrictions in mid-May, while extending others through the end of July.

“COVID-19 cases and deaths in L.A. County and the Santa Clarita Valley are still breaking records every day,” Saenger said. “I’m annoyed at the rush to be back in harm’s way by re-opening too fast.”

“I think May 15 was good to begin to slowly get back to business for some, but not all,” Gurney said. “Business owners should be planning for how to continue to manage their businesses and staff with physical distancing and sanitation. It will be gradual and there definitely will be a new normal. [I’m] just not sure what that looks like yet. Things we’ve managed to do remotely we may continue to do.”

Gurney looks forward to helping other SCV businesses like Saenger Associates navigate the uncharted financial waters they face now and going forward.

To that end, she led a free Valencia Industry Association-hosted Zoom conference for local businesses titled “Managing Your PPP Funding” on Friday morning.

ppp loan

“As a brand-new business banking customer of MVB, I’m so grateful for Tamara’s friendship and the MVB team’s ‘make-it-happen’ attitude on this complicated PPP,” Saenger said.

“We survived 9/11 and the Great Recession, and now we’ll survive the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been a far greater challenge,” he said. “Sure, our business has taken a hit, like many others have, but we’ll never quit.

“And I still don’t know the status of our first application,” he said on May 13, five weeks after first contacting the big bank – and more than a week after Saenger Associates’ PPP loan had been funded through Mission Valley Bank.

About Saenger Associates – Retained Executive Search Consultants
Saenger Associates, a premier Retained Executive Search firm based in Santa Clarita, California, since 1999, enjoys a worldwide reach as a strategic member of IRC Global Search. Founder-President Gary L. Saenger and his team of longtime associates’ major practice areas are Industrial Products (including Aerospace & Defense) and Consumer Products. SA’s corporate clients include private, public, Fortune-500, and non-profit companies, established and emerging. Call 661-284-3818 Ext. 102, email gsaenger@saengerassociates.com, or visit www.saengerassociates.com for more information.

About Mission Valley Bank
Mission Valley Bank is a full-service, independent, commercial bank specializing in the banking needs of small to medium businesses. Mission Valley Bank has full-service branches in the San Fernando and Santa Clarita Valleys as well as a Loan Production Office located in the South Bay. The bank was chartered in July 2001, with a vision of local ownership and a commitment to providing financial solutions to meet the needs of its clients. Visit www.missionvalleybank.com for more information.

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