David Cain launched Buff Buddies Fitness in La Cañada six years ago, and even though business has grown, he is struggling.
Banks have slashed his credit lines. Government loans are hard to get. Schools that might partner with his youth fitness programs don't want to play ball.
"I'm trying hard," Cain said. "I'm above board. I'm sick of getting killed for it."
Cain was one of hundreds at the Pasadena Convention Center on Wednesday seeking leads on jobs, loans or government contracting opportunities. He was also one of the many who caught the ear of Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), sponsor of the event, which brought together more than three dozen chambers of commerce, business advisors and government agencies, including the Small Business Administration and Department of Commerce.
The size of the crowd, Schiff said, "is a sign of just how much need there is out there. Hopefully, we have a lot of good resources here."
In one break-out room, a Small Business Administration official outlined the paperwork and qualifications entrepreneurs need to get a shot at long-term government contracts. In another, business counselor Mark Colomonos offered tips for would-be entrepreneurs and good news for established business owners.
"The SBA and the banks are not lending money to people generally," he said to a crowd of more than 100. "But they are lending money to plumbers, roofers, dentists and doctors. What will make the country turn around is small business."
Even as stocks on Wall Street took a tumble midday Wednesday amid worrisome economic indicators, Schiff said the economy is going in the right direction.
"Just last year, we were losing 750,000 jobs a month," Schiff said. "Now we're gaining 70,000 jobs a month. We've come a long way, but we have a long distance to go."
The government could also do more, he added, pointing out that lawmakers were seeking legislation to "incentivize" community banks to lend more aggressively and for the Small Business Administration to be able to guarantee more loans.
Schiff acknowledged that strict financial regulations passed in the wake of the banking and real estate crises have in some cases discouraged lending. While he said new rules are in place to stave off risky practices, he said, "I think it is appropriate for the treasury secretary to make sure that regulators are not putting a brake on lending."
Michael Kiaman of the Verdugo Workforce Investment Board, which coordinates jobless training programs for the region, said he told visitors about their options, but also pointed them to other tables where they might answers.
"Everyone is under one roof today," Kiaman said. "It's kind of nice."