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ORLANDO-While commercial real estate loans are still hard to come by through normal channels, locally based Mercantile Capital Corp. has seen a huge jump in volume lately. The company reports closing more than $12 million in loans during August and anticipates at least $90 million in volume for all of 2009.

Mercantile Capital is a leading provider of Small Business Administration 504 loans, which offer 90% loan-to-cost financing at below-market rates for qualified firms that want to buy or build their own facilities. Loans last month included $4.5 million to purchase and renovate the Best Western Sun Vista Hotel on International Drive in Orlando, as well as $1.1 million for a dental office in Atlanta.

“We know our niche very well and we dominate our niche,” Chris Hurn, Mercantile Capital president and CEO, tells GlobeSt.com. “We’ve never had a borrower default on a loan with us. This niche flourishes in good times and holds its own in bad times.”

Hurn says small businesses are more solid borrowers when it comes to financing their own offices or buildings. He adds that specializing in SBA 504 loans, rather than being generalists, has helped Mercantile Capital avoid some of the problems larger commercial banks are facing lately with loan defaults and foreclosures.

“Any bank in America can make an SBA 504 loan. Very few can do it competently,” Hurn says. He notes that Mercantile Capital operates with little competition in making specified small-business loans.

Mercantile Capital was founded in 2002 by Hurn and Geof Longstaff, the company’s chairman. Hurn says his prior experience with GE Capital helped him realize the difficulties small businesses faced in meeting the capital requirements of traditional bank financing.

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