Local Economy

October 4, 2008 12:45:28 AM PDT
With uncertainty about the economy, there are some optimists in Fresno. They are the finalists in an unusual contest aimed at bringing new business to the city. The ten finalists in the Fresno Entrepreneur Challenge were at a get together held at the home of Fresno State University President John Welty Friday night. The ten are hoping to be the one who wins a 250 thousand dollar prize, to help them get their business going.Despite the problems on Wall Street and the debate over whether the bailout bill passed by congress will work, some say it's a good time to start a business. Tim Stearns is the Executive Director of the Lyles Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Fresno State University. He says, "It is a great time to start a business because the time that an entrepreneur really wants to get in the market is when things are down, because, eventually it goes up."

One of the entrepreneurs competing for the quarter million dollars in prize money is Kelly Fitzgerald. She invented the "Bumpit" a device to lift a woman's hair. Her company, Big Happy Hair has already done half a million dollars in business this year, and thinks her product is recession proof. "We feel like it is because it's so inexpensive and women are going to do whatever it takes to feel pretty. They just are." She says.

A set of Bumpits costs 20 bucks. While new business owners like Fitzgerald are hopeful, other businesses, like car dealerships know they are far from recession proof. The slowing economy and rising unemployment are taking a bite out of sales.

Nick Santana, the Finance Manager at Future Ford in Clovis puts it this way:" When things are off people stop buying, I mean the housing market slowed down, people are shopping less, driving less, traveling less, so naturally things in the auto industry are going to be down as well."

Santana says another factor is the credit crunch which started with problems on Wall Street. He says loans are still being made, but take a little more work. He says banks and finance companies are, "kind of going through loan applications with a fine tooth comb, you know verifying a lot of stuff that before was overlooked."

But, he notes Ford is offering special rebates and financing deals to help buyers. Other dealers we spoke with said buyers with good credit aren't having problems. But, those with imperfect credit backgrounds have a tougher time. Car dealers and others who depend on credit for their sales are hoping the bailout helps. While the new entrepreneurs are hoping the big prize will get them off the ground in these tough times. The winner of the contest will be announced during half time of Saturdays Fresno State football game.

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