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Some entrepreneurs are born ready to answer when opportunity knocks. When the Eagle Ford Shale opportunity brought an economic boom to the community of Gonzales, Texas, the Guerra family opened their doors—literally—to the scores of new faces that needed accommodations at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites.
Ruth Guerra is the kind of entrepreneur that makes you think that business acumen is a quality that a few lucky people are just born with. Along with her husband Arnold and daughters Alison and Alexis, she is making sure that the community of Gonzales is taking advantage of what could be a launching point of economic growth for the region. On top of it all, she makes all of this hard work look incredibly easy.
In August of 2012, the Guerra family opened their second hotel, the Holiday Inn Express & Suites, next door to their already established Sleep Inn & Suites. The Sleep Inn & Suites, open for 6 years this November, had been so successful that another hotel was needed for the growing demand. They knew the new hotel would be popular, but knew from experience that the financing would be difficult to come by without the help of the SBA. They had used the SBA 504 Loan program to finance the Sleep Inn & Suites and were convinced it was the way to go for the second location as well.
“If it wasn’t for the SBA, the banks wouldn’t have even touched us. We wouldn’t have been able to do these projects,” says Ruth.
One of the benefits of the SBA 504 Loan program is that it allows community banks to participate in the loan and support their local business owners on deals that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to finance under traditional lending standards. With full first lien coverage in return for financing 50% of the project, banks are better positioned to protect their investment while being able to help bring the project to fruition.
“Lone Star Bank has enjoyed the partnership with SBA through the program in assisting small business owners such as the Guerras,” says Gary Mobbs, Branch Manager at the Lone Star Bank in Gonzales, who financed the bank portion of the loan. “We are very committed to helping our small businesses in Gonzales and proud to be a part of the Guerra’s success story.”
Now that the Holiday Inn Express & Suites is well-established, the family is in the process of opening GG Steak & Spirits, an upscale two-story steakhouse with a banquet area to accommodate large groups and private events. The restaurant will fill a void that exists for a 30-mile radius around the area, and will allow them to use their hospitality experience to bring a high-quality dining and events experience to an area rich with history, natural beauty and large attractions such as rodeos and concerts at the nearby JB Wells Park. They are using the SBA Grow Loan for a third time to help finance the new project.
A big part of what makes the businesses run so smoothly is that the Guerra family is absolutely in it together. Arnold Guerra, a residential and commercial builder, designed the building and oversaw its construction. Daughter Alison manages the Holiday Inn Express & Suites and her husband Andrew manages the Sleep Inn & Suites. Daughter Alexis, with a degree in hospitality, is Director of Sales and oversees the culinary and event planning departments.
“We definitely talk shop at the dinner table, but it keeps our family together,” says Alison. “It’s created jobs for our family as well as the community.”
Prior to establishing the hotels, Gonzales had a lack of jobs for high school graduates, who would leave the area to seek employment. Between the two hotels, they have created 55 jobs, quite an impact in a town of 8,000 residents. Several of their employees are young people making their lives in Gonzales as well as mothers who are reentering the workforce after their children have grown.
Thanks to the SBA, Lone Star Bank, and the Gonzales Economic Development Corporation who also lent their support to the project, the Guerra family is firmly focused on the future of Gonzales and will continue to grow their businesses to meet the needs of the community.
“All of our blessings come from God, and we could not have accomplished any of these successes without him,” says Ruth. “Through His guidance we found the SBA and the resources we needed to accomplish our goals.”
However, though the SBA has surely helped Ruth and her family to create such a positive economic impact in the community, it’s also hard to imagine that anything would have stopped them from succeeding. Opportunity may have knocked in Gonzales but the Guerra’s passion for hospitality is what’s making it relax and stay a while.