On the heels of the longest and most difficult economic period since the great depression, Catawba Regional Development Corporation (CRDC) is celebrating the milestone of $50 million of closed economic development loans since the program‟s inception in 1982. Partnering with local banks, federal and state funders such as the Small Business Administration, the US Department of Agriculture, and the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control, Catawba Regional has worked with local businesses and governments to provide capital for business start-up, expansion, and brownfields cleanup. CRDC‟s work has resulted in multiple benefits: not only has $50 million of capital been attracted to this region and state, but an additional $118 million of private capital has leveraged Catawba Regional‟s loans, leading to the creation of over 2,000 local jobs.
Vision in Action
CRDC began in 1982 with the support and sponsorship of the Catawba Regional Council of Governments, whose member governments are Chester, Lancaster, Union, and York Counties. Bill James and Harold Shapiro, former Executive Directors of Catawba Regional COG at the program‟s inception and through the early development of the lending programs, stated that a compelling need for business capital and job growth drove the start of a business lending program. Formed as a separate, independent, non-profit entity, CRDC‟s Board of Directors has always been comprised of local bankers, accountants, finance professionals, and community leaders.
Growth and Expansion
The Catawba Regional lending programs began with support from government at all levels: local, state, and federal. Seed capital for one of the earliest loan programs came from member counties, the COG, and the SC Department of Commerce, which in turn leveraged federal funds from the US Economic Development Administration. Lending programs expanded with the addition of the SBA‟s 503/504 program and approval of CRDC as a state-wide „Certified Development Corporation.‟ USDA Rural Development provided capital in the form of three, low-interest, long- term loans through its Intermediary Relending Program targeted toward rural communities. In 2006, a syndicate of banks provided $2 million of low-interest debt capital for a privately funded business lending program. Additionally, the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control entered into a contract with Catawba Regional to manage what is now a $7.5 million brownfields cleanup revolving loan program for the State of South Carolina.
Partnership is Key
Catawba Regional has partnered with more than 20 different lending institutions to make 233 loans to customers in the Catawba Region and throughout the state. Loans have been made to companies in many different industries, including manufacturers, service sector companies, hotels, child development centers, medical professionals, and local governments. The partnership includes technical assistance providers like the Small Business Development Center at Winthrop University, knowledgeable and creative bankers, capital providers, and customers, all working together to achieve a better solution for private business to help grow jobs in South Carolina.
Economic development lending is not easy. Businesses need a solid business plan, sufficient cash flow for repayment of loans, and collateral to support the project being financed. Most of the time, this includes pledging specific personal assets of owners, and personal guarantees of all debt. However, the work and commitment is worth the effort, as the benefits of financing through Catawba Regional often include a slightly lower interest rate, a longer repayment term, and lower required equity invested in a project.
Moving Forward for the Region and South Carolina’s Future
As the banking industry and business community continue to deal with issues from the “Great Recession,” Catawba Regional provides a continuing benefit to local business by finding a way to get to „yes.‟ Catawba Regional‟s loan programs help businesses get projects financed and, in turn, businesses commit to create jobs. The SBA recently announced a new program to allow existing businesses to refinance debt through the SBA 504 program. Catawba Regional has hosted training for lenders, and one loan is already being underwritten through this program.
Randy Imler, current Executive Director of Catawba Regional, states that the future is bright. “Who knew that what started as an idea in 1982 would grow into this? We have so much opportunity to help expand our regional and state economy. This program is an excellent example of private enterprise and the public sector working together to create jobs and grow our economy. We‟re privileged and very thankful to play a role in the success of so many local businesses, which in turn benefits the communities and state in which they do business.”
For additional information about this press release or lending programs through Catawba Regional, please call (803) 327-9041.