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Loan programs target job creation

Published: Thursday, March 10 2011 3:41 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — Recent reports from the Utah Department of Workforce Services indicate that the state's job count expanded by 1.5 percent from January 2010 compared to the same month this year.

The Utah economy continues to show year-over-year employment gains, with all growth occurring in the private sector, said DWS senior economist Mark Knold.

One of those companies adding jobs is Utah-based Backcountry.com. The online outdoor retailer has hired almost 100 new workers in the past 12 months, according to chief financial officer Scott Klossner.

Backcountry.com currently employs more than 800 people in Utah and plans to add even more as the company implements its plans to grow its already $200 million annual revenue business. To do so, Klossner said the company will use a line of credit obtained from JP Morgan Chase Bank.

The global banking giant has developed lending programs to give companies incentives to expand their operations and work forces, thereby growing the economy nationally and locally.

"We think good things are happening when banks are lending and companies are growing," said Craig Zollinger, president and chief executive officer of JP Morgan Chase Bank, Utah.

For larger companies, the "Building our Strength" program is geared to help businesses like Backcountry.com increase productivity and expand their reach, resulting in the need for more workers. For smaller firms, the "Loan for Hire" program offers special lending terms and lower interest rates to companies who invest in their business and "ultimately grow and you're hiring people," Zollinger explained.

"(The program) is an incentive to invest in your business and ultimately help grow the economy and put people back to work," he said.

In 2010, Chase lent $732 million to Utah businesses, governments and nonprofit organizations, a double-digit increase from 2009, according to Mary Jane Rogers, Chase vice president of communications and government relations. Lending to Utah's small businesses — those with less than $20 million in annual sales — increased by 75 percent from 2009, she added.

Klossner said the program gave his company a "greater capability to grow both here and internationally."

"We have plans to … grow at 20-plus percent over time," he said. "We'll probably grow at least 15 percent in headcount and revenue (over the next year or two)."

He said that growth will be made possible because of programs from lenders like Chase, that infuse the financial capital needed for companies to move their businesses into the future.

"For a company of our size to go forward, it's absolutely imperative that there are lending resources out there from an economic standpoint," Klossner said. "We look at cash as one of the major resources that we simply must have to grow and go forward."

e-mail: jlee@desnews.com

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