1. What experiences best prepared you to be a leader in the CDC community?
While, I wouldn’t consider myself a leader in the CDC community, (I’ve only been with Mountain West Small Business Finance – MWSBF four years) I think my time focused on 504 loans as a banker best prepared me to be a part of the CDC community. I joined Zions Bank in their National Real Estate Group straight out of college. This group specialized in the secondary market for 504 loans nationwide and has a portfolio in the range of $5 billion. My time spent there gave me the opportunity to work with CDCs in every state. From that experience, I’ve been able to take best practices from across the country and use them at Mountain West.
2. What appeals to you about economic development and the work CDCs do?
The economic development side of our profession is the best part of what we do. It is nice to view a project for its potential community impact rather than just strictly repayment ability or collateral analysis. Don’t get me wrong, credit is very important and we serve no one by putting a borrower in a position that they will fail. But seeing the end game of helping a borrower realize their dream that puts new jobs, growth and opportunity in a community is a reward in of itself.
3. What observations have you made about NextGen in the 504 industry?
I think NextGen in the 504 industry is experiencing a lot of the same challenges and opportunities that most of the business world – and especially the financial industry – is experiencing. There is the leadership of those who have spent their careers in the industry and know the ins-and-outs of the program. They’ve established a name and so many of them have helped pave the way for the program by creating a strong foundation. On the flip side, there’s also new blood within the industry. The future leaders of 504 – we’re a generation that sees the world as accessible and full of opportunity. For the most part, we see technology not as the answer to everything, but as just one more tool for outreach and possibility. I think one of the most important things we can do as supporters of REAL 504 is to understand that we need both sides. We need the so-called “tribal knowledge” of those who have laid this foundation, and we need to embrace new ideas and new technology to take 504 to the masses and get more projects funded.
4. How can individuals at executive levels in CDCs support their NextGen?
I think this goes back to this partnership of old and new. I’m thankful to be working at a company that supports NextGen. Our executive leadership supports our NextGen associates by encouraging us to attend NADCO annual meetings and GR conferences. They take the time to involve NextGen in management and decision making processes. They’re open to alternative marketing and technology options. They understand the paradigm is shifting.
But like I said, it’s a two way street. Mountain West’s NextGen is given this latitude because we rely on their expertise. We respect what they’ve done; and both sides see the value in the partnership of seniority and new blood.
5. If you had an entry-level employee in your CDC, what advice would you give her about utilizing her generation’s unique tools and abilities?
There are a few things I’d mention. First be respectful and patient with yourself. There’s learning curve, and we’re all still part of it. Second, technology is not the answer or the end game; it’s just a tool. And third, remember that it’s about people and not programs.
6. How do you hope to see the industry progress in coming generations?
Well, from a practical standpoint: I would really like to see the refinance come back as a permanent option for our borrowers. And I really hope it doesn’t take a generation for that to happen.
I think debt refinancing will become a reality when we brand REAL 504 until it becomes a household name. We need our leadership in Washington fighting for the program, because they know it’s the right thing for small business and job creation. That would be progress.