Charlie Nutt, right, owner and publisher of Free Times, talks with Editor Dan Cook
Forty years in the newspaper business and Charles Nutt had never been to South Carolina. Now, after a half-dozen quick trips and with the help of Business Development Corporation and the local banking community, he's a major media business figure in the capital city.
Nutt, a retired Gannett newspaper editor and publisher, recently purchased the Free Times in Columbia to continue the weekly publication's growth as a respected, vibrant source of political, entertainment and cultural news.
After decades of managing newspapers in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, Nutt was working as a newspaper consultant from his home in Vineland, N.J., not far from Philadelphia, when he began exploring ownership options. His first target was Hilton Head, and he created a firm he named Resorts Media LLC that reflected that interest, but instead was steered by colleagues to the Midlands and the Free Times, which had been put up for sale by its Virginia-based owners.
He consulted with First Community Bank – headed up by President/CEO Michael Crapps, a BDC Board Member – about securing a Small Business Administration loan and said he anticipated a complicated, tedious process. "The bank steered me to BDC and, working with Connally Bradley there, we made quick progress. It was smooth sailing the whole way and not at all the chore I expected," Nutt said of securing the funding for his publishing venture.
Using an SBA 7 (a) Loan Guaranty, the deal closed shortly after the newspaper celebrated its 25th anniversary, and Nutt is now focusing on the weekly newspaper, its online presence and its sister magazines, Parent, Bites & Sights and The Side Line. "I'm also getting out into the community to talk to readers and advertisers and learn more about everyone's likes and dislikes and business needs," he said.
BDC President and CEO Edwin Lesley is among the welcoming committee. "Meeting Charlie and welcoming him to our community has been a pleasure," Lesley said. "We're here to help make innovative financing deals like this one work. The visibility of the Free Times and its role in helping our vibrant community grow has been particularly gratifying."
For more than 50 years, Business Development Corporation (BDC) has been financing small businesses in South Carolina, ultimately creating new jobs for the citizens of the Palmetto State. Since 1958, BDC and its associate company, Certified Development Corporation (CDC), have approved over 1,800 loans totaling more than $670 million, making them leaders in SBA lending in South Carolina.