From receiving the largest ever grant in the organization’s five-decade history to new programs, increasing demands and new properties and projects, Lewis & Clark Development Group closes out 2022 in as strong a position as it has ever been.
“Twenty-twenty was the year when a lot changed for us. We began that year expanding into property management services. By March, we mobilized to assist businesses survive the pandemic. It has not slowed down since for us,” says Ekstrom.
“In many ways, 2022 has been a banner year for us especially when it comes to lending and property management services,” observes Ekstrom.
$10 million grant both historic and game changing
Topping off the year for LCD Group is USDA Rural Development’s recent awarding of $10 million grant to create a new Revolving Loan Fund (RLF) to support the state’s meat and poultry industry. The grant was one of only eight awarded in the nation through the Meat and Poultry Intermediary Lending Program (MPILP).
“This is the largest grant ever awarded in our organization’s 53 year history. It’s a game changer for the meat and poultry industry and a milestone for us in many ways,” Ekstrom observes.
Work is already underway to award the first loans through the fund in early 2023. It joins the list of many other LCD Group lending programs.
Consistent high demand for small business lending programs
Another new initiative launched in 2022 was the Collateral Support Program through the North Dakota Opportunity Fund. LCD Group Commercial Loan Director Matt Burthold says interest is growing in the program.
“It’s another avenue of funding support for small businesses through the North Dakota Opportunity Fund,” says Burthold who notes that 2022 was a great year for the NDOF.
The program, which leverages private financing for to help small businesses and manufacturers in 38 municipalities across the state saw consistent growth throughout the year.
“We saw high demand for traditional loans through the program last year, in part, I believe because we were moving beyond the pandemic. That demand has stayed high throughout 2022. I think it is a credit to the reputation the North Dakota Opportunity Fund enjoys among lenders across the state,” adds Burthold.
For Derrick Becker, LCD Group loan officer, there was no slowdown in demand for the SBA 504 Loan. Even with rising interest rates, LCD Group processed almost $5 million in SBA 504 Loans in 2022.
“Interest rates spooked a lot of people but what matters most for small businesses is that SBA 504 Loan rates are fixed and what the loan does for them,” says Becker.
At the close of the fiscal year on September 30, LCD Group processed $4.9 million in SBA 504 Loans. In 2021, Becker says $4.2 million in total loans were processed.
Looking ahead to 2023, Becker expects no letup in demand for the SBA 504 Loan.
“The SBA 504 Loan is the most popular small business loan in the country. I don’t see that changing regardless of where interest rates land,” Becker noted.
Property Management Services continue to grow
Now entering its third year in offering property management services, LCD Group is firmly established as one of the leading providers of affordable housing in North Dakota – especially in rural communities.
“It is safe to say we are a lifeline for many small rural communities in providing affordable housing,” says LCD Group Multi-Family Housing Director Paulette Paulson.
As of December 1, LCD Group now manages 596 multi-family properties in 22 communities throughout North Dakota. Of these, LCD Group owns five properties that provide 90 units.
Paulson says plans are already underway for LCD Group to take over management of additional housing units in Bismarck in 2023, which will bring the total number of units managed or owned by LCD Group to 716.
“Our approach to property management involves partnering with agencies, groups, and individuals that support individuals and families facing the challenges of finding affordable housing or retaining housing,” says Paulson. “It’s an approach that is supported by the state and other funders. As a result, multiple opportunities have come our way. Property management is not easy but it is always rewarding to provide safe and affordable housing for families and individuals.”
Among the notable highlights of 2022 for LCD Group property management services program was the grand opening of Boulevard Avenue Apartments in Bismarck, which provides 120 units of affordable rental housing. LCD Group purchased the property in 2020 and through a public-private partnership with the North Dakota Housing Finance Agency (NDHFA) and Syringa Property Management Group was able to transform the property.
“Success breeds success.”
When he peers into this his crystal ball, Ekstrom sees continued and sustained growth throughout 2023 and beyond.
“Demand is not going down for affordable housing. It’s only increasing as the state has an inadequate supply of affordable multifamily units and the housing market is overpriced. So we are going to continue to see our role in providing affordable housing become even more important moving forward,” says Ekstrom.
When it comes to lending programs, Ekstrom sees consistent to increased demand moving forward.
“There’s a lot of focus on interest rates and speculation about a possible downturn in the coming months. Regardless, we see demand in our lending programs staying the same or growing because of how our programs are structured,” notes Ekstrom.
“We’ve become a go-to support system for lenders across the region and state. That’s not going to change. What I think may change is the areas we’re moving into. The meat and poultry RLF is a good example of that. More economic needs will be identified and we’re uniquely able and equipped to step in,” Ekstrom stated.
“Success breeds success,” adds Ekstrom. “That’s why I’m optimistic about 2023. I have no doubt it’ll be another hectic and rewarding year.”