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Communities Trend in Small Business Lending, the George Bailey Way

A proud man who has always worked and who has suffered 11 heart attacks, Carnley admits he was embarrassed to ask anyone for help. "People kept suggesting we have a fundraiser, but I said businesses don't have fundraisers, people have fundraisers if they lose their home, but not for a business," says Carnley.

The community launched Clint's Rebuild Campaign, with an auction to serve as the main fundraiser. Resorts, hotels, and many other individuals and businesses, including Clint's competitors in the restaurant industry, donated money and items to auction, which brought in $13,000 in one day.

A local furniture store, owned by a man Clint had given a job to in the carpet cleaning business as a teen, donated 10% of one day sales to the effort and even the local high school culinary class held a bake sale, raising $1,000.

In all, $17,000 in cash was raised to rebuild Clint's, not counting many donated and discounted building materials and the time the community invested in helping rebuild, refurnish and complete the finishing to the new restaurant, which was recreated on the same piece of land outside of town.

Clint's reopened in September 2011. The previous restaurant seated 168 and it now seats 184 people, employs 25 and offers live music several nights a week. There is a drive-up building for take-out and catering.

Mayor Atchley says the effort wasn't only about "good people helping a good person." Clint's served as a local hangout, billing itself as "where the locals eat."

"Clint is a local owner, he is not part of a big chain. I have a choice of a lot of restaurants. They are typically crowded, and Clint's is also a busy but much more laid back atmosphere, a nice place for the locals," Atchley says.

Community help becoming more common

According to the Small Business Administration, 660,900 small businesses with less than 500 employees closed in 2009, the last year for which complete data is available.

The idea for making a dent in this statistic by helping a local small business owner is not a new one, as epitomized in the 1946 movie "It's a Wonderful Life," in which a community comes together to help a near-bankrupt local son, Jimmy Stewart in one of his most famous roles as George Bailey, save the Bailey Building and Loan, literally handing over their savings to help the family-run bank stay afloat.

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