Fallon, Nv. -- Rural Nevada Development Corporation is a non-profit, community lender that has been supporting small businesses in rural Nevada for the past 28 years. Mary Kerner has been the Chief Executive Officer for the past three years and she traveled to Fallon from Ely where the RNDC is located, just before the COVID-19 shut down to talk to the Fallon Rotary Club about the organization and how they might help Fallon businesses.
RNDC serves primarily rural Nevada, from Jackpot to Bullhead City and West Wendover to the South Shore of Lake Tahoe. The organization does have money they can lend in the Reno and Las Vegas area, but leave that mostly to resource partners who are specifically focused on the metro areas of the state.
With a nearly $5.4 million impact over the past three years in Churchill County alone, RNDC is well-equipped to be helpful during this drastic economic downturn. In addition to their regular funding programs, Kerner said this week in a phone interview, that her staff has recently applied for funds through the Economic Development Administration for disaster recovery funds. These funds will allow for “waivers on collateral requirements, match requirements which is injection by the owners, and interest rate reduction so we can do one or two percent loans.”
Although the Small Business Administration has several programs to help small business, RNDC also works closely with the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) which has specific responsibilities to serve rural America, and RNDC has a strong working relationship to provide access to those programs.
RDNC also has a Small Business Development Center counselor in the office specifically dedicated to helping rural business owners to navigate the disaster loan and Payroll Protection Program. “Michelle (Beecher) has helped guide a lot of people through the PPP process and the EIDL loan as well,” said Kerner. Although both of those are “out of money right now,” she said, she expects they will be funded again in the next few days.
The business lending program is the biggest focus for RNDC and Kerner shared some of the business successes that have benefitted locally, including Doreen’s Desert Rose Florist, CC Massage Therapy, Too Cute Totes, Lahontan Valley Surgical Center, Mike’s Plumbing, Butt’s Up Design, and more recently The Grid. “We are very active economically,” she said. “Being a non-traditional lender, most banks won’t touch any business less than two years old – they don’t have credit, they don’t have cash-flow, they don’t have collateral – and so being a non-traditional lender we come in and try to get them from non-bankable to bankable.” She said RNDC will lend on start-ups, expansions, equipment upgrades and bigger projects in partnership with the SBA 504 program.
“When we do a deal it’s not the same,” said Kerner. “We do the old-fashioned style of underwriting, we don’t credit score our borrowers, and 90% of the deals that come to us are not approved the way they were submitted. We find a better way, or more creative, or possibly phased.” Kerner said the organization is very conservative and works with loan committees on the board that look at each deal and talk about them. “We have a less than one percent default rate,” she said. “It’s my passion, rural lending, we try to make it work, I hate turning a deal down, but we won’t throw good money after bad because our money is loaned to us and we have to pay that back whether our clients pay us back or not.”
In addition to small business lending, RNDC also has housing lending programs as well including down payment assistance, rehabilitation for safety and soundness, as well as a weatherization program.
USDA Rural Development was the first partner for RNDC back when they started in the community lending business, and currently Kerner said they are in a $10 million partnership with the agency, providing both the Intermediary Relending Program as well as the Rural Micro-Entrepreneur Assistance Program. RNDC also has active partnerships with Charles Schwab Bank, Nevada State Bank, Wells Fargo, First National Bank of Ely, Nevada Bank and Trust, Economic Development Administration, Small Business Administration, and the Community Development Block Grant program.
Kerner says RNDC also works extensively with national organizations to keep funding agencies assisting borrowers in the rurals. She travels regularly to Washington D.C. as a champion for rural lending policy and works to update lending regulations. Because the RNDC programs have been so successful, they provide a training program that demonstrates for other community lenders across the country how they have creatively addressed the needs of rural small business.
“The people running these programs haven’t worked a day in rural American and they need people on the ground telling them what does and doesn’t work and here’s why,” she said.
In light of full disclosure, Rachel Dahl is currently serving as a board member to the RNDC.
Support local, independent news – contribute to The Fallon Post, your non-profit (501c3) online news source for all things Fallon.
Never miss the local news -- read more on The Fallon Post home page.
The Fallon Post -- 1951 W. Williams #385, Fallon, Nevada 89406