The USDA Guaranteed Lender Award was presented to Greater Nevada Credit Union (GNCU) last Friday, marking the first time a credit union has ever won the award. Based on the amount of loans guaranteed through the Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan program, GNCU far outpaced the competition, lending over $120 million to small businesses in seven states.
Lisa Mensah, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Under Secretary for Rural Development, presented the award during the National Rural Lenders Association Annual Meeting. “These programs are part of the resurgence of rural America,” said Mensah, who was pleased to present the award to a credit union during October, National Co-op Month. “With these kind of loans and the kind of jobs they provide, we revitalize and rekindle our love of place in rural America.”
Jeremey Gilpin, GNCU’s Vice President of Business Services, was on hand to accept the award. “I see more and more credit unions working together to make these types of loans. When you have that kind of cooperation across the board, we have a much more efficient program,” he said.
In part due to GNCU’s lending program, this year was the biggest year for USDA’s B&I Guaranteed Loan Program, which made 379 loan guarantees worth nearly $1.3 billion.
The purpose of the B&I Guaranteed Loan Program is to improve, develop or finance business, industry and employment, and improve the economic and environmental climate in rural communities. The B&I loan program mitigates the risk to lenders, allowing them to make larger loans to businesses than they may have otherwise been able to.
While credit unions are sometimes known to be more local, through partnerships, GNCU provided a nationwide network of loans. Working with other smaller credit unions and community banks across the U.S., they guaranteed 17 multiple state loans, increasing the broader impact of the program. This cooperation among cooperatives is what helped create the national lending program led by GNCU.
One $4.9 million loan was given to Great Northern and Southern Navigation Company to acquire and repair a river cruise boat, the Columbia Queen, boosting tourism in the Mississippi River area in Louisiana.
Gilpin believes GNCU may be the winner for a few more years to come. “The next big thing for us is local foods development and addressing food deserts in rural communities. We see a lot of potential there,” Gilpin said, noting that GNCU recently guaranteed a loan to a hydroponic greenhouse business.
“Greater Nevada Credit Union makes a fantastic partner because, like USDA Rural Development, they are passionate about improving the economy and quality of life across rural America,” Mensah said.