Community bankers in Wisconsin are trying to drum up business with borrowers who would otherwise be considered too risky.

The bankers are using an outside consultant to analyze and offer funding suggestions to potential borrowers who have "an idea for a new and expanded business that makes sense and that looks like it will work in the community," said Harry J. Argue, executive director of the Wisconsin Bankers Association.

Mr. Argue, whose trade group designed the program, called WBA-TEAM Network, said a typical borrower might lack collateral or expertise in putting together a business plan.

The program "helps move the borrowers from a marginal category to an acceptable category," Mr. Argue said.

Proposals Analyzed

Since the program began in February 1993, 13 projects have been funded, and 22 projects are in the application process.

Here's how the program works: A borrower comes to a participating bank, which refers the client to Commercial Credit Consultants, a Ripon, Wis, firm that has contracted with the association to analyze the applicant's business proposal for a $75 fee.

Commercial Credit produces a summary of the business and suggests funding sources whether they be private sector or government programs.

The referring bank has the first opportunity to structure a loan using government, bank and private resources with the client. If the bank declines, other banks in the network can step in.

Loan requests. typically range from $200,000 and $500,000. About 80 of the group's 430 members are in the program.

Gary Harrop, president of Peoples State Bank, a $28 million-asset institution in Mazomanie, Wis., said the program "is like having an additional loan officer at our disposal."

Mr. Harrop recently referred an application for a restaurant loan of about $600,000. He likes the program because he doesn't have to dedicate too much time to learning the complexities of government funding applications.

"We're pressed for time," said Mr. Harrop, who is president-elect of the association. "We wear so many hats in a small community bank."

Before Peoples State Bank joined the network in December, Mr. Harrop was "totally against" it.

But he eventually found the program's resources to be more complete than he thought.

"I was very pleased to see the level of support," he said.

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