Joe Bliss thought the worst was over. Revenue at JBC Technologies--a Cleveland-based die cutter that makes products as diverse as materials used in electronics and small components for automobiles--had plunged 40 percent when the recession hit. Bliss had dismissed half of his 96 employees, cut wages across the board, and slashed his own salary to almost nothing.
Now, in the summer of 2010, sales were finally back. Bliss had restored his employees' salaries, repaid lost wages, and begun hiring again. He also resumed planning the expansion he had envisioned for the company--which included 40,000 square feet of additional manufacturing space and new corporate offices.
Then, on August 17, the men from Charter One bank came to visit.
Bliss, who had been banking with Charter One for five years, had $6 million worth of commercial loans outstanding. He says he never missed a payment or, as far as he knew, violated any of the covenants, the financial metrics that banks mandate to ensur...