Local banks get bailout funds - and (ugh) don't lend. Many smaller banks that received bailout funds still aren't lending, according to a the New York Times. Bailout funds are going to local banks faced with rising defaults and bad loans, and many smaller banks are using that capital infusion to shore up their balance sheets, rather than, say, lending. You have to wonder why bailout recipients were not given a mandate to lend some portion of their relief money. Last time I checked, that's what banks do. Here's a blatantly self-serving quote from the chief lending officer at Michigan's Independent Bank: "It is like if you are in an airplane and the oxygen mask comes down. First thing you do is put your own mask on, stabilize yourself." (You don't want to sit next to that guy on a transatlantic flight.) At the same time, banks are tightening lending standards across the board. Decidedly not good.
Express-Loan Distress. The sharp falloff in Community Express Loan Program lending activity documented by Robb Mandelbaum on his blog The Entrepreneurial Agenda was the subject of a segment on NPR's Marketplace this morning. "Lenders who work with the SBA are hitting the cap on the number of loans they can make because of increased demand for capital," Marketplace's Ronni Rondell reports. "Congress set a financial limit when they kicked off the pilot program." "Until we're sure that the program is right, that it's really serving and protecting the borrowers, we're not in a position to go ask Congress to lift the cap," an SBA official told Rondell.
T-minus how long? Former Inc. Entrepreneur of the Year (and PayPal co-founder) Elon Musk is getting closer to the final frontier. Musk's interstellar venture, Space X, has its Falcon 9 vertical at Cape Canaveral, and the ship is being readied for launch later this year. They aren't giving a definite launch window, but they've got some gorgeous photos on their update page. For more on Musk, Space X's big-dreaming CEO, see Max Chafkin's 2007 article.
Aisle Be Seeing You. Retailers are finding more and more innovative and bizarre ways to deploy in-store interactive technology with the goal of engaging customers and boosting sales, Advertising Age reports. To watch a video of the technologies featured at the the National Retail Federation Convention in New York City, click here. Oh, and in case you haven't noticed the early morning market slide, retailers reported a slide in sales for the sixth consecutive month. In December, retail sales were down 9.8 percent compared to the same period last year. No surprise, then, that the National Federation of Independent Business reports that small businesses are more pessimistic about the future than they've been in the last 35 years.
Early adopters, sort of. The New York Observer has an interesting piece today about the value of early adopters. The beginning of the story is somewhat off-putting. In a piece about tech-savvy early adopters, the first few paragraphs are built around a publicist who's actually paid to promote tech gadgets. (Full disclosure: I went to college with the publicist profiled in the piece). But, the rest of the story has some nice tidbits regarding the varied views as to what an early promoter actually is, and how to find them. The writer, Gillian Reagan, quotes marketing expert Seth Godin: "Women who read Vogue are early adopters," he told The Observer. "They are the ones who wait in line at Bergdorf's to buy the new Manolos. And those same women might be early adopters in that they bought cell phones at 6 years old."
Competing with the big boys. Slate's Bizbox speaks to Doug Seibold, founder and president of independent publisher Agate. With four different imprints and plans to begin release e-books, Agate is growing despite dark days for the publishing industry. Seibold talks about being a small business in market dominated by corporations—the big guys tend toward projects with obvious commercial potential, leaving promising projects for Agate to snatch up. His opinion on entrepreneurship? Think before you set out on your own. "I believe what people say about starting your own business, or being a writer: it's not something you should really do unless you feel really compelled to do it," says Seibold.