Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Cape Cod Winter

I was recently asked why you would want to be on Cape Cod in the winter. My first reply would be why not. But, I guess that wouldn’t satisfy anyone who didn’t understand.
After, the bustle of summer has passed the real Cape Cod emerges. The small town atmosphere and home town quality comes back to life. Each town has their fall celebration; be it the cranberry festival, the oyster festival, turnip festival or windmill weekend. Each community has their own unique way of celebrating. It may be a parade of local businesses and families, the fastest oyster-shucking contest, the turnip cook-off or the ever-famous craft fair.
You won’t find ski resorts but you can find a quiet fire road or trail to cross country sky after a snowstorm. Your family won’t find an amusement park but you will find a beach to stroll for an hour and never see another soul. You won’t easily find a Wal-Mart or many other chain stores so you will have to shop locally where they remember your name. You may also find yourself getting lost in a general store for hours or a boutique, antique shop or even an art gallery.
Activities do exist in the winter. Some suggestions include the Audubon Sanctuary, The Natural History Museum, Cape Cod Art Museum, Cape Cod Maritime Museum, Sandwich Glass Museum, and Whydah Sea Lab and Learning Center. There is also the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, which is the largest private non-profit ocean research engineering and educational organization. You may want to travel to the Outer Cape where 44,000 acres is owned and preserved by the government as the Cape Cod National Park Service. This land is devoted to saving Cape Cod as it was when Henry Thoreau first visited and wrote about such an exquisite, rare, quiet piece of land- the winter is when you can actually have this experience.
You can go still go shell fishing, saltwater fishing, and or ice fishing. Walking, biking and yes for some surfing is still possible! The Cape does not completely close down after the summer. For most Cape Codders after the summer is when the Cape opens. It’s time to enjoy a peaceful day at the beach snuggled in a warm down jacket, watching a sunrise or sunset all by yourself, or observing a blue heron search for food in a marsh, or just drive down to the beach to read and watch the waves.
So, it’s not for the quick paced family or vacationer that’s wants to be occupied for 24/7. It’s for the people who are looking for a place to stop, relax, enjoy, and know how to entertain themselves.
Karen O'Connor

Local Banks Escape the Worst from Rosa Wright

Local banks escape worst of financial crisis by Joseph Santangelo
The financial industry on the South Shore and Cape Cod largely has avoided the worldwide financial turmoil that has roiled stock markets and dragged economies into the worst recession since the 1930s.
Liquidity is not a problem locally, as community and regional banks actively offer credit to small businesses, although loan standards often are tighter and loan volume is down. Local banks are picking up new lending business, mostly at the expense of the bigger banks that still are struggling through an 18-month international credit crunch.
“From the banks’ perspective, a financial institution with strong capital that understands its marketplace and has a local presence and local management should be positioned to look at this as a business development opportunity,” said Joseph Riley, executive vice president for retail and business banking at Eastern Bank.
Area banks report little to no exposure to subprime mortgages, mortgage-backed securities, credit default swaps or other toxic assets that have plummeted in value after the housing boom collapsed and overleveraged consumers could not meet mortgage payments. Community and regional banks also see an influx of deposits as people increase their savings and shy away from volatile stocks.
Local bankers are suffering few of the problems from speculative home buying and resulting foreclosures that rocked Florida, California and other regions. Cape Cod Five, the Cape’s largest bank with $1.77 billion in assets, was forced to foreclose on only one home mortgage during 2008 and just three in the past two years. Others were renegotiated.
Joel Crowell, president and CEO of Cape Cod Cooperative Bank, was one of several bankers to report increased loan volumes for 2008. He said, “My customers are not GE and not GM. We continue to work with borrowers with good management, who are showing discretion, who have a sound business plan and cash flow.”
Bruce Hammatt, chief lending officer for Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank, said, “The availability of commercial loans is not a problem. Certainly our bank has money to lend. The required down payment on commercial real estate has tightened up for particular businesses. We used to do loans with 80 percent down. Now it’s 75 percent down.”
Hammatt added, “Commercial real estate hasn’t had the dramatic drop in value that residential property has had. The basis is principally cash flow. If cash flow is still there, the value is still there.”
Chris Richards, vice president/senior commercial lender at The Community Bank, added, “Economic conditions are particularly critical right now. A potential customer recently came in to see me with $1 million in revenue in 2007; but he can anticipate only $300,000 next year. Another business owner (a retailer) I was speaking with said that in his 20 years of experience, September was his worst month that he has ever had, but October was his best month. The economy and consumers are very unpredictable right now.”
Eastern Bank’s Riley said credit standards remain prudent, though borrowers sometimes have a harder time meeting them. “Meeting the required credit scores becomes more and more difficult.” He also says the ability to obtain backing from the U.S. Small Business Administration for commercial loans is important to help keep business credit flowing.
Nationally, about 85 percent of senior loan officers reported they tightened standards for large and mid-sized firms, and about 75 percent said so for small businesses. About 20 percent of U.S. banks reported reducing credit limits on existing credit card accounts to prime borrowers.
Lenders urge borrowers to contact their banks as soon as possible if they see business conditions deteriorate and they need to work out new terms for their loans. “If business is down 10 percent, we want to see how you’re prepared to handle it,” said Hammatt of Cape Cod Five. “What’s most impressive is if the business recognizes the risk. The business has to be on top of it, recognize that things are not perfect and look at ways to adapt.”
The U.S. Small Business Administration in Boston also has set up a hotline for businesses trying to wrestle with financial problems, at (617) 565-5627. For example, the SBA can help a restaurant owner find a bank that is currently lending to restaurants.
Overall loan volume in the region is down significantly. Sanford Blitz, regional administrator of the SBA, said banks and businesses are arranging fewer SBA-backed loans, though more banks are seeking SBA guarantees for those loans.
Blitz said, “The figures for the fiscal year that ended September 30 were down 23 percent in total dollars and the number of loans down 36 percent. The new fiscal year continues to be down about 30 percent.”
“On the positive side, at the end of the fiscal year in September, 70 more banks in Massachusetts had done more SBA loans than in the past fiscal year. So, a whole bunch of banks were doing more business with us than in the past.”
Particularly as the economy weakened in the last half of 2008, many businesses were sitting on the sidelines, preferring to pare down debt, reduce expenses and avoid new borrowing in the face of declining sales and revenues.
In addition to the SBA, noted Richards of The Community Bank, “There are plenty of sources to get help. On the Cape, SCORE has many excellent retired professionals who have relocated here. The key is to find the right person with the right experience for your business. The Massachusetts Small Business Development Center is headquartered out of Fall River and has a local representative who always visits local chambers. Coastal Community Capital and the SEED Corporation are other valuable resources.”

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Aquatic Artist, Greg Johnson by Barbara Johnson

I’m in real estate and not very busy right now, a little problem for many of us in this business. Rather than remind everyone that home prices and mortgage rates are down, I thought I’d put in a plug for my talented son, Greg Johnson
Quoting briefly from his Biography (http://www.whalesong.us/) ---
“Cape Cod has long been known for its beaches, the local surf, and art cultures and the live music scene. For three decades Greg has been a central part of the Cape’s local color as a legendary Nauset Beach Lifeguard, professional artist and musician.
Greg has recently made a name for himself as an aquatic artist. He studied art at Ohio Wesleyan and the University of New Hampshire and is self-taught as a painter. Looking into one of Greg’s large acrylic paintings gives the viewer a feeling of being immersed in the water with the whales and dolphins. For Greg, the aquatic life he paints represents spirituality, peace and freedom.
His work is displayed in galleries, private homes, libraries, banks, shops, and local business offices. Most recently, Greg has opened a gallery and studio in East Orleans.”

To view his work, call 508-246-1697 for an appointment, or check out his Website
http://www.whalesong.us/ http://www.whalesigns.com/

HAPPY HOLIDAYS Barbara Johnson