Category Archives: News

2015 Micro Entrepreneur of the Year

Freedom Trail Tour, Inc.  


SBAC-2015Luncheon-2260 ME1

Johnnie Brown, Owner and Operator of Freedom Trail Tours, Inc.

At this year’s Award Luncheon, the 2015 Micro Entrepreneur of the Year was awarded to the business Freedom Trail Tour, Inc. owned by Johnnie Brown.

Many of us know this stylish, well-dressed tour guide sporting a top hat and French cuffed shirt, but if you don’t, let us paint a picture of him for you. New York Times describes Johnnie Brown as one of Savannah’s precious few African-American tour guides whose popular tour is a refreshing detour from a stroll on River Street. Trip Advisor contributors strongly recommend him, stating “Johnnie Brown is passionate about delivering spot-on information and an interesting tour”.

SBAC-2015Luncheon-2220 AME1

Johnnie Brown [center] received the 2015 Micro Entrepreneur Award from Stephen George [left]. Reverend Tillman [right] of the First African Baptist Church, Savannah, also pictured here.

As you can read in the most recent article on his business in the Savannah Now, Johnnie has come back again and again to SBAC for his business financing.  He first came to SBAC in 2011, and received a loan funded through the City of Savannah’s Housing and Urban Development Special Purpose Grant to refinance his tour bus at that time. He has since returned to SBAC every year since for a total of 5 loans to finance various projects including the purchase of a new bus. It has been a pleasure working with Johnnie Brown and watching his small business grow to what it is today.

SBAC was very pleased to honor Johnnie Brown of Freedom Trail Tour, Inc. with our award for Micro Entrepreneur of the Year 2015.

2015 Michael Bunn, Sr., Memorial Rising Star Award

SBAC-2015Luncheon-2232 ARS1

2015 Michael Bunn Sr., Rising Star Award Winner- Gil Straub of Bojangles

Bojangles’ Famous Chicken ‘N Biscuits


The Michael Bunn Senior Memorial Rising Star Award has been given every year since its inception to a small business that has shown to be a “Rising Star” in its community.

In this year’s Annual Luncheon at the Savannah Station, SBAC recognized and honored Gilbert Straub and Gilbo, LLC dba Bojangles’ Famous Chicken n’ Biscuits for their continuous involvement in our community.

SBAC-2015Luncheon-2157 AMBGil operates several restaurants who regularly host local charity nights and events to help organizations, athletic teams, and schools raise funds. Numerous times Gil and his partner Mike Curran, have stated that Bojangles’ is an avenue for them to help people in the community.

When Gil opened his first Bojangles’ in the community he told Savannah Business Journal:

“We define ourselves by the community in which we live because we have become so ingrained in it with every aspect of our lives. Bojangles’ has built its reputation on being active in the community it serves, so it fits very nicely with who we are as business owners and Savannah residents.”

In a past article, Business in Savannah commented that they’ve reinvented the Bojangles’ brand into one that not only provides quality fast food, but also has an impact on the Savannah community.

Since their start in 2009, Gil Straub and his Bojangles’ team have continuously shown how dedicated they are to our community. With the help from SBAC, and the Small Business Administration, and Ameris Bank, Gil has been able to open two additional Bojangles’ franchise locations; financing projects which total $4.29 Million Dollars.

Circa 1875

This month we visited Circa 1875, a taste of France in the heart of Savannah. The restaurant is described as the “Unpretentious French Cuisine and Gastro Pub”- so authentic, the owners actually traveled (and ate) through France for inspiration.


Comptroller of the Currency Discusses Community Reinvestment Act and Small Business Lending

Remarks of Thomas J. Curry, Comptroller of the Currency before the 2015 State Small Business Credit Initiative Conference

May 12, 2015

Good morning and welcome to Constitution Center. This is the second year that the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency is hosting the annual SSBCI conference, and I’d like to welcome all of you, newcomers, as well as those who joined us last year.

The two things I find most intriguing about the State Small Business Credit Initiative, referred to as SSBCI, is that it was designed to leverage private capital, and it gave the states the flexibility to reinvigorate existing state small-business credit programs or to develop new ones. This has allowed you, as state program administrators, the flexibility to be creative and devise approaches that best meet local needs. And this approach has brought success; your programs have deployed over $1 billion in funding for small businesses.

This conference is a great opportunity to share experiences and explore new ways to expand small business lending. I understand this is the largest attendance yet for this gathering, and I’m sure you have a lot to discuss.

For those of you who are not familiar with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the OCC is the primary regulator and supervisor of national banks and federal savings associations. The OCC supervises over 1,600 financial institutions with collective assets of $10.9 trillion or 71 percent of all the banking assets in the United States. Approximately 1,400 of these institutions are community banks with assets under $1 billion and community banks are the most active participants in the SSBCI.

The OCC is an independent bureau of the Department of the Treasury, and we work closely with Treasury to advance common policy objectives. Currently, we are collaborating with Treasury to help broaden banks’ awareness of the SSBCI program.

Soon after the Small Business Jobs Act creating SSBCI was enacted, the OCC developed a publication for bankers that identified the various opportunities the legislation presented to spur small business lending, including the SSBCI. We continued our efforts to expand awareness about this dynamic program with a 2013 report explaining how banks could participate in the SSBCI and providing case studies to illustrate how banks are successfully partnering with the agencies you represent to make loans to small businesses. The OCC and the FDIC also developed “Frequently Asked Questions,” that are posted in the Small Business Resource Directory on the Community Affairs page of the OCC’s Web site,

Understandably, some banks have voiced concern about how regulators would view loans made under programs, such as SSBCI, that otherwise might not meet the bank’s standard underwriting guidelines. The OCC has emphasized in our guidance that as long as a bank’s actions reflected a prudent, comprehensive review of a borrower’s financial condition, generally, the bank would not be subject to supervisory criticism for participating in an SSBCI program. The OCC also expects banks to ensure that their participation in the SSBCI or other federal small business programs is consistent with, and supports, their institution’s overall strategic goals and objectives.The OCC has been working with our colleagues at the Treasury Department to

The OCC has been working with our colleagues at the Treasury Department to encourage participation in the SSBCI by partnering with some of you in conducting banker outreach and training. Our examiners speak to their banks about small business and community development finance opportunities in the course of their supervisory activities. We also have a cadre of Community Affairs Officers who have participated in a number of banker outreach events sponsored by SSBCI program administrators. David Black, a member of the OCC’s Community Affairs team, will be participating in this conference, and I would encourage you to speak to David about any ideas you have for how our Community Affairs team can assist you.

Another way that the OCC supports banks’ involvement in small business programs is through our supervision of banks’ performance under the Community Reinvestment Act. CRA, which was enacted in 1977, directed the financial institution regulators to periodically evaluate how well a bank or thrift meets the credit needs of its community and assign a rating that reflects the institution’s performance.

A bank’s CRA rating is important both as a matter of public reputation and for a variety of business reasons. A bank’s record of CRA performance is considered as part of the corporate application process, so CRA ratings can affect banks that want to grow and expand their footprint. The SSBCI Frequently Asked Questions that I mentioned earlier include a discussion about how a bank’s or thrift’s SSBCI loans can be considered when examiners evaluate the bank’s CRA performance.

We also are continuing to enhance our CRA guidance regarding bank participation in small business finance programs. We had been hearing from bankers that the current guidance in the CRA Questions and Answers was deterring some types of economic development activity. One particular concern was that our current CRA guidance may inhibit banks from providing financing to Community Development Financial Institutions and other financial intermediaries that assist start-up businesses.

To address these concerns, in September 2014, the bank regulatory agencies proposed changes to the CRA guidance with respect to how we consider economic development when assessing certain small business loans and investments. The proposed changes would add more detail and provide additional examples of activities that “promote economic development.” The proposal also would add loans to or investments in CDFIs that finance small businesses or small farms to the list of activities that are presumed to support economic development. It is our goal that, once finalized, this CRA guidance will encourage banks to engage in more economic development activities that strengthen small businesses.

Banks can also receive CRA consideration under the Service Test for providing small businesses with technical assistance on financial matters. At times, a bank may not initially be able to approve a loan for a small business applicant. Nonetheless, a bank can receive CRA consideration for providing technical assistance directly to a small business owner or for providing financial support to a partner that will help the small business owner improve business operations to become more bankable.

Instead of simply saying “No,” a bank can help a small business owner improve the chances of getting to “Yes.” After receiving technical assistance, the small business owner can be referred back to the bank, or to a financial intermediary, such as a CDFI, or to another bank that is participating in SSBCI for financing.

Last week was National Small Business Week, and I want to take this opportunity to recognize the crucial role that small businesses play in creating jobs and stimulating the health of our economy. Small businesses rely heavily on large and regional financial institutions for their credit needs, but community banks also play a very significant role in providing small business credit. Even though community banks hold just 8 percent of the assets of the banking industry, according to the Independent Community Bankers Association smaller community banks with less than $1 billion in assets made one-third of outstanding bank loans to small businesses. Mid-size community banks with less than $10 billion in assets made another 18 percent of outstanding bank loans to small businesses.

Moreover, several Federal Reserve banks recently conducted a joint survey of small business credit, and they found that approval rates at small regional or community banks were significantly higher, particularly for growing small business firms, than approval rates at larger banks. Throughout the country, community banks help small businesses thrive by offering personalized service and credit products tailored to their customers’ needs, and these smaller institutions have been important partners in the success of your SSBCI programs.

CDFIs also are important players in underserved markets and often target market segments that banking institutions may not be able to serve. Frequently, CDFIs have strong business relationships with banks. Small business customers benefit when a bank refers them to a CDFI for a loan, or when a CDFI helps a small business owner improve its operations and creditworthiness. In turn, that may enable a bank to approve a loan to that business. I’m very pleased to see that the SSBCI programs are working so successfully with community banks and CDFIs.

In closing, I want to applaud your continuing efforts to develop your states’ SSBCI programs. The SSBCI program has been particularly effective because it focuses on results. SSBCI has supported over 12,000 transactions and for every $1 in federal funding, $7.40 has been generated in private lending or investment. Because the funding stays with your programs, these amounts will continue to grow and be recycled to support more transactions in the months and years to come.

I wish everyone success in your discussions over the next two days. Thank you for inviting me to join you today, and I hope you have a great conference.

17hundred90 Inn & Restaurant

This month we’re profiling 17Hundred90, a legendary Inn and restaurant here in Savannah. Located in the heart of the Historic District,17Hundred90 gives locals and tourists alike an authentic taste of history.
A few years ago the Godleys decided to purchase and renovate the property utilizing the SBA 504 loan program. SBAC and Heritage Bank handled the loan, and the family did the heavy lifting; literally. The owners did much of the renovation work themselves.
Fun Fact— Named for the year of its inception, 1790 is Savannah’s oldest Inn and has been called one of the most haunted buildings in America.
Before we call the ghost busters, we have to marvel at the beauty and amazing story that has attracted visitors and even celebrities for centuries.
Not only does 17Hundred90 encompass a rich history in its own right, the building is a destination for many looking to make their own. Home to many proposals and first dates, 17Hundred90 will remain a fixture in the hearts and minds of the masses that chose to make it part of their journey.

Financial Strategies for Small Business – Lunch and Learn

Opportunities to finance small business start-ups and expansions are improving as the economy improves.

Register today to attend and  learn about available financial strategies for starting and/or expanding your small business.


Date: March 25th

Time: 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Location: Southeastern Technical College’s Economic Development Center (100A Brinson Rd; Vidalia)


A light lunch will be provided. Pre-registration is required. Seating is limited. To reserve a seat, contact David Yarbrough:

912-538-3119 or

SBAC St. Patrick’s Day Open House

A shamrock will bring luck your way… especially if you stop in to see us on St. Paddy’s Day. Join us for a wee bit o’ malarkey and lots of Irish coffee.
Watch the parade from our office. Enjoy free food and fun for the entire family.
St. Patrick’s Day Open House
Tuesday, March 17
8AM -2PM
Date: Tuesday, March 17
Time: 8:00 AM- 2:00 PM
Location: 111 E. Liberty Street, Suite 100
Savannah, Georgia 31401
For more information, contact LeAndrea Mikell.


SBAC Welcomes Victoria Burch as Staff Accountant

Victoria Burch

(Savannah, GA) The Small Business Assistance Corporation is excited to welcome Victoria Burch as Staff Accountant. Her duties include maintaining financial records, preparing financial statements, preparing managerial and financial reports, reconciling bank statements and assisting with development and monitoring of budgets.

“I am excited to be an addition to the SBAC team. I look forward to assisting in the continuation of the organization’s mission of economic development as it continues to finance the goals of individuals and businesses in the community,” said Burch.

Ms. Burch has many years of experience in working with accounting functions, and she also has experience with non-profit organizations. Ms. Burch currently works with the Coastal Children’s Advocacy Center.

A native of Augusta, Victoria has a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting from Savannah State University and a Master’s Degree in Accounting (MACC) from Georgia Southern University. She can be reached at

# # #

About SBAC: Small Business Assistance Corporation (SBAC) is a community financial development institution (CDFI) as well as a certified development company (CDC). SBAC is authorized to provide business financing an assistance services by the City of Savannah, the Small Business Administration (SBA), the state of Georgia’s Department of Community Affairs, and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). For more information, visit or call 912.232.4700.

Welcome Back Brady Cannon

SBAC Welcomes Brady Cannon as

Community Development Lending Officer

Brady Cannon

Brady Cannon

(Savannah, GA) The Small Business Assistance Corporation is pleased to announce that Brady Cannon has joined SBAC as the Community Development Lending Officer. In his new role, he will be responsible for marketing community development loans to potential borrowers, third party lenders and other referral sources. The primary responsibility of this job is to develop and originate new small business loans and promote economic development.

“We are excited to have Brady Cannon join the SBAC team of business lenders,” said Tony O’Reilly, SBAC President. “He is a great fit, both in lending skills, and commitment to our Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) mission.

Brady served in the United States Peace Corps as an Agricultural and Rural Business Consultant in the Republic of Moldova for over two years. After the Peace Corps, he worked with the Small Business Assistance Corporation as a Micro-business Finance Associate. In 2011, Brady joined Technology Association of Georgia (TAG) as Director.

“I am excited to join such a well respected organization with decades of experience fueling economic development across Savannah and southeast Georgia through its small business lending programs,” said Cannon.

A native Savannah, Brady has a degree in economics from the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business. He can be reached at


# # #


About SBAC: Small Business Assistance Corporation (SBAC) is a community financial development institution (CDFI) as well as a certified development company (CDC). SBAC is authorized to provide business financing an assistance services by the City of Savannah, the Small Business Administration (SBA), the state of Georgia’s Department of Community Affairs, and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

2014 Michael Bunn, Sr., Memorial Rising Star Award

Savannah Global Solutions

Mark and Trudy Sauer of Savannah Global Solutions

The Michael Bunn, Sr. Memorial Rising Star Award has been given every year since its inception to a business that has shown to be a “Rising Star” in its community.

Mark and Trudy Sauer came to Savannah in the late 90’s with an interest in owning a small business. As they searched for a company that would be the right fit, Mark joined a Savannah company owned by an Australian manufacturer, who manufactured and sold equipment used in commercial forestry. Years later, the two run a successful local manufacturing company with international clients and a growing labor pool.

Savannah Global Solutions, LLC markets and manufactures mechanical and chemical site preparation equipment used to forest and reforest commercial timber plantations, prepares sites for bio-fuel crops such as sugar cane and converts native land and cut-over timberland back to crop land. The use of this highly sophisticated soil preparation equipment results in better survival and growth of trees and crops in very rugged soil conditions.

Savannah Global Solutions is known for its ability to bridge strong products and manufacturing with the biological needs of forestry and bio-crops.  Savannah Global Solutions supports sustainable environmental conscience developments in Forestry, Bio-fuel Crops/ Energy, Agriculture, Constructions and Recycle Markets worldwide.

Savannah Global Solutions secured a loan to provide permanent financing for the purchase and improvement to an existing commercial building. SBAC Partnered with Gabe Thomas of SunTrust Bank for a total project of $1.7 Million dollars.

Mark and Trudy Sauer give the term “family owned business” a whole new meaning. The husband and wife “dream team” handle all the management of the local company with an international reach. Mark, the chief operator with over 25 years of experience in the engineering field, is responsible for sales, marketing, overseeing manufacturing and new product development. Trudy, the business manager, supervises accounting and HR and assists in marketing and business development. She has over 28 years of management and administrative experience.

Savannah Global Solutions is an innovator in the field of manufacturing and engineering. The company continues to make a positive impact on the local, national and international economy.  Along with the award being presented here today, Savannah Global Solutions has been selected as 2014 Exporter of the year by the Georgia Small Business Administration.