Like many business owners facing the worst recession in decades, brothers Jim and Stephen Shuford became crisis managers as consumer confidence, net worths and jobs began to rapidly vanish. It was early 2009, and their Hickory-based company, Shurtape Technologies, had recorded a 20% decline in sales the previous year, a rout that wasn’t unusual for U.S. manufacturers rocked by the economic downturn. Yet amid the despair of the Great Recession, the brothers found opportunity when their largest customer — an Ohio-based tape distributor that did $75 million of annual business with Shurtape — was suddenly placed on the auction block by its German owner.
The Shufords decided they had to make a bid or risk losing a vital chunk of their business. One big challenge loomed: They had to line up bank debt to finance the deal. In a normal economy, bankers would rush to work with the Shufords, fifth-generation members of a blue-blooded North Carolina manufacturing family. But these weren’t ordinary times. About 15 banks turned the brothers down before they signed agreements with four lenders.