On Thursday afternoon Scott Dewald, president and CEO of REI Oklahoma, addressed local business professionals at the Southern Oklahoma Leaders’ Lunch. REI Oklahoma is a nonprofit organization with a vision statement: Expanding Oklahoma’s Prosperity. Dewald said they achieve this by “expanding economic opportunities for Oklahomans by providing flexible financing and development services to individuals, businesses, and entrepreneurs with limited access to resources.”
Dewald said that in 2018 the company had a $272 million financial impact on the state. They lent $122.6 million to businesses and individuals, helped facilitate the creation of 2,555 jobs, provided $79.3 million in minority assistance, and helped 502 families get into homes.
Dewald said that they are not a bank, but they do make small business loans.
“We will only make a small business loan to an entity once they have been turned down by a bank,” Dewald said. “We do a lot of bank participation loans where we take part of the action and let the bank take the rest of the action.”
He said in addition to their small business loans, they also make loans to larger business as well. The loans can be amounts as small as $1,500 to as much as $20 million. They get this money through federal programs they apply for each year. One major source of these federal dollars comes from the new market tax credit program.
“It is extremely competitive trying to get those allocated tax dollars,” Dewald said. “Every year over 30 billion dollars of applications go out for 3 billion dollars worth of tax credits. Every year, we’ve been able to apply for about $75 million.”
He said the amount REI receives has varied from year to year. Some years they have received as much as $65 million with other years as little as $35 million.
Another important facet of REI’s mission is helping people become home owners.
“We’ve created an instrument by which we’re able to give a down payment of up to $5,000 or $6,000, it just depends, to people who qualify,” Dewald said. “Then they are able to meet their obligations for their down payment.”
He said these loans are then all pooled together and sold off as a security. The money made from this sale is then turned around to help more families buy homes.
Another way REI is able to help Oklahomans is by creating innovative programs that allow the organization to stay relevant. Dewald said they are currently interested in developing an employer assisted housing program. He said this would be a great way for employers to offer better benefits packages.
“There are a lot of ways to do that, but the employer is basically fronting some of the expenses for the employee (to buy a house),” Dewald said. “That’s then forgiven over a course of time or payments are taken out of checks. There are really a lot of ways to coordinate that.”
He said REI can help by being the “back of house” in order to facilitate the loan.
“Some employers don’t want to have the loan instruments and everything that goes with that, so we’d have the loan instruments and be the conduit,” Dewald said. “That’s just one of 100 ways you can do that.”
These are just a few examples of the many programs and opportunities offered by REI Oklahoma. For more information visit their website at www.reiok.org.