A few years ago, RAM Trucking was mainly a hauler of building materials—but everyone knows what happened to the housing market. Yet, RAM Trucking is still on the road and more resilient than ever.
To safely steer his company when the economy began to slide, President Dale Latimer applied a basic principle of driving in hazardous conditions: When the weather gets rough, keep your tires inflated to the right pressure and make sure you’ve got enough tread. In this case, getting enough tread meant restructuring the company’s financing and accessing working capital to position for opportunities beyond the construction arena.
RAM Trucking employs 50 people full-time, and they pride themselves on treating employees well, providing good health insurance, and having little staff turnover. They had to keep the company moving forward in order to protect these family wage jobs.
“It hit bottom for us in the winter of 2009,” Latimer recalls, “but we knew if we could position ourselves to take on different types of clients—and carry different types of loads—we would be able to keep all of our staff on board and come out ahead.”
Latimer began working with Dave Wood, President and CEO of Willamette Community Bank, a Linn County lender that directs roughly half of its loans to small businesses. Although business lending in general has been stymied, Wood says his bank is still making loans and looking for opportunities.
“What we underwrite is the staying power of our clients,” Wood explained, “and RAM is a survivor. They are a good business with good management.”
In structuring RAM’s new loan, Wood decided to incorporate a Business and Industry (B&I) loan guarantee through USDA Rural Development. Through its B&I program last year, USDA guaranteed more than $63 million in loans to rural Oregon businesses. Over $40 million of this lending, including RAM Trucking’s guarantee, was authorized thanks to increased agency funding provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act) of 2009.
With the USDA B&I loan guarantee, Willamette Community Bank was able to increase lending capacity to finance large hauling equipment. This has allowed RAM Trucking to aggressively diversify, recruiting clients in multiple industries and upgrading their trailers and equipment to accommodate everything from chicken feed to heavy industrial machinery.
“We’ve seen gradual growth since then,” Latimer said. Comparing their 2010 numbers to 2009, he said, “They’re all good.” This relationship with their local small bank has given RAM Trucking the traction they needed to adjust to conditions, diversify and come out stronger.
“We’re a typical small business who, because of the support from our local bank and the B&I loan guarantee, were able to keep a lot of good people employed,”