6 FOCUSREPORT/CUSOsANevada CUSO dedi- cated to enhancing businesses in rural and underservedareas has helped resurrect textilejobs in the Mississippi Delta andallowed an Iowa fish farm to swimthrough the cash strains of thepandemic.
Greater Nevada Credit Union ofCarson City ($1.3 billion in assets,76,338 members) launched Greater Commercial Lending in 2017 tohelp member credit unions offercommercial loans, including federally guaranteed loans throughthe USDA and Small BusinessAdministration.
GCL typically brokers theloans, allowing local creditunions to originate them. GCLbundles and sells the guaranteedloans to investors, and retainsservicing rights. It also organizesparticipations in conventionalcommercial loans among interested credit unions and community banks.
The Reno-based CUSO has anetwork of lenders that includes 10credit unions with $9 billion in assets and 645,201 members from Kalamazoo, Mich., to Baton Rouge, La.
The CUSO is simply doing whatCUSOs were designed to do: Useconcentrations of expertise toshare more widely in the creditunion movement.
But, like many CUSOs, GCL wasconfronted with conditions thatwere neither typical nor simple after the World Health Organizationdeclared COVID- 19 a pandemicon March 11.
EVP Jeremy Gilpin said the vastamount of dollarsfor most of the government pandemic loans were originated by big banks,“Where we put our dollars ascredit unions and communitybanks – that’s the story,” he said.“We put them into underservedcommunities, rural communitieswhere the big banks wouldn’t go.”Gilpin has closed and servicedmore than $900 million in loansin the past 20 years. He came toGreater Nevada in 2013 to start itscommercial loan division, whichis now the nation’s largest USDAbusiness lender.
Gilpin grew up in Parsons, Kansas, where its population that tops10,000 makes it the biggest cityin Labette County. His father wasan engineer in a nearby munitions plant and his mother was aschoolteacher. His grandparentson both sides farmed in the southeast Kansas area.
Growing up, he learned how
the loss of factories or other busi-
nesses can devastate rural areas.
Gilpin is a past chair of The Na-
tional Rural Lenders Association,
an organization that partners
with USDA national directors and
political leaders to ensure rural
communities maintain access to
viable financing options.
Gilpin said GCL measures suc-
cess not just by loan production,
but by the number of jobs created
or saved. “We’re about protecting
underserved and rural communi-
ties. That is my passion.”
GCL finds a local credit union
or community bank and offers
it a chance to participate in the
loan. “So the credit union has a
premium off that loan,” he said. “It
helps the credit union, it helps its
bottom line and it helps the com-
munity financial institution from
being swallowed up as well.”
GCL sells all of its federally
guaranteed loans to investors
from life insurance companies to
hedge funds, and shares $75 mil-
lion a year in premiums with ru-
ral credit unions and community
For conventional commercial
loans without federal guarantees,
GCL organizes participations.
“It’s helping small, local credit
unions and community banks
bolster their balance sheets so
they can continue to provide the
services that these rural commu-
nities desire,” he said. “We help
them remain in that community
and continue to be a vital part of
While GCL doesn’t hold loans
on its books, it retains servicing
rights for most of its loans. Its ser-
vicing pool has risen from $282
million in its first year to $1.3 bil-
lion in September.
“We are the back office for all
of these credit unions and com-
munity banks,” Gilpin said. “It’s all
held on credit union and commu-
nity bank balance sheets.”
GCL regularly serves about 20
credit unions and community
banks, and has a network of 120
investors that buy its guaranteed
USDA commercial lending
criteria are broad, and GCL has
shepherded loans for sewer lines,
fiber optics, hospitals, schools, fire
stations, auto part manufacturers,
greenhouses and restaurants. “We
do everything,” Gilpin noted.
One of GCL’s early clients wasEagle’s Catch in Ellsworth, Iowa.GCL funded a $10 million loanwith a USDA guarantee to helpbuild a farm to raise tilapia fish tobe sold live to restaurants.
Another was Vidalia Denim,which announced plans in 2018to build a cotton mill in a former900,000-square-foot distributionfacility abandoned by Fruit of theLoom in 2017 as it moved its operations to Mexico.
Vidalia Denim’s plan is to uselocal cotton on new ring-spin-ning frames and weave the yarnon 46-year-old Draper X3 shuttlelooms recovered from Cone Mills’White Oak plant in Greensboro,N.C., as it shut down after 112years.
Financing for the plant a milefrom the banks of the MississippiRiver included a $25 million US-DA-guaranteed commercial loanto purchase, renovate and equipthe mill. The loan was brokered byGCL and originated by JeffersonFinancial Federal Credit Union ofMetairie, La. ($891.6 million in assets, 52,728 members).
In addition, Greater Nevadaoriginated a $5 million SBA loanfor other equipment and workingcapital.
Then came the coronavirus. After March 11, credit unions acrossthe country started shutting downbranches. While some workerswere idled, others soon becameincredibly busy.
GCL switched to making Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)
Business CUSO Shows Agility in Pandemic
Y Greater Commercial Lending of Reno, Nev.,was founded in 2017 for business lending inrural and underserved areas.
Y The COVID- 19 pandemic has created unusualchallenges for CUSOs.
Y GCL pivoted to provide PPP and othergovernment loans.
Joe Sweeney, CEO of Eagle’s Catch, a tilapia farm in Ellsworth, Iowa.
(Photo credit: Eagle’s Catch) Workers at Vidalia Mills in Vidalia, La. (Photo credit: Vidalia Mills)
‘Where we put ourdollars as credit unionsand community banks– that’s the story. We putthem into underservedcommunities, ruralcommunities where thebig banks wouldn’t go.’