Campground owner gets loan thanks to help from bank, SBA

July 14, 2012|By ARNOLD S. PLATOU |
  • Yogi Bear Campground & Resort owner Ron Vitkun checks the storm pond on the camp grounds. A small business loan made it possible for the storm pond to be built.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

It was frustrating to Ron Vitkun that after he installed a new swimming pool at his Yogi Bear Jellystone Park campground and resort near Williamsport, along came new governmental requirements that forced changes to the pool.

To pay for the changes, Vitkun needed a new loan — not an easy thing to get in this tough economy.

But he did succeed in getting the loan by working closely with his bank and the U.S. Small Business Administration to use the SBA’s loan guarantee program, as an increasing number of businesses are doing.

“Without the efforts of the bank and the Small Business Administration to truly help us out, we wouldn’t have been able to make those changes,” Vitkun said.

The changes are expected to cost $250,000. They include the completion of a stormwater retention pond, the installation of a second point of entry on one of the two pools and a lift chair for people with disabilities on the other, and some road paving.

Except for the paving, the changes all were the result of various governmental concerns, either for safety or to comply with the American Disabilities Act.

Vitkun said he doesn’t disagree that the changes were necessary. He said he wholeheartedly supports efforts to assist people with disabilities and to make swimming pools safer.

However, the timing was a problem.

“As a small businessman, I don’t mind spending the money. But let’s do it right the first time,” he said. “Kind of the feeling I had there was the government was telling us, ‘Oops, you need to redo it.’”

The changes are “absolutely the right thing to do, but with the economy, the cash flow isn’t there. And you can’t raise prices at a time when everybody else (in the resort business) is discounting prices,” he said. “To raise the prices right now is crazy.”

With the SBA-backed loan approved, things are better, but “I have increased my debt and that does concern me,” Vitkun said.

The worry is “if the economy takes another dip again. These are the things that keep a small-business owner up late at night,” he said.

“But I do see a small improvement here in the economy. In the past two years, people would come, but they wouldn’t spend that extra dollar or two. Now, I’m starting to see an increase in my store sales, not a great big increase, but a little bit.”

“So this is a good thing, but I’m saying it with kind of a note of caution,” Vitkun said. “It’s like a roller coaster ride, where you have one month starting to do really great, and then the next month, it goes back down, and then the next month back up.”

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