Bay Bank: Teams up with Native CDFI to help small businesses

As the only tribe-owned bank in Wisconsin, it was only natural for Bay Bank to reach out and forge a strong relationship with the First American Capital Corporation, Inc. (FACC), a Native Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) organization, certified by the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

While Bay Bank offers a variety of loans and products to businesses, FACC works with many businesses initially unable to qualify for a traditional business loan.

“We share a similar mission — to help Native Americans through economic development,” said Nathan King, Bay Bank’s vice president. “We want to help FACC build its capacity since they can help more small businesses.”

FACC Co-Executive Director Gary Mejchar said working with Bay Bank allows the organization to assist more businesses, including expanding or newly formed tribally owned enterprises. FACC has been especially active in helping and growing construction industry-related firms, a market sector FACC has considerable experience and expertise working in. Those businesses will likely benefit from the 2021 federal infrastructure law since a portion of contracts will have participation goals for qualified businesses with Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) certifications. FACC aids businesses with the DBE and other local/state/federal minority certification programs.

“We can do more together,” Mejchar said. “There are some things Bay Bank cannot do, but we can,” such as providing in-depth pre-loan and post-loan technical services with clients, such as loan readiness assistance and help businesses grow capacity so they eventually qualify for the credit standards of commercial banks. Likewise, Bay Bank, for example, provides both business and consumer banking services, while FACC can only serve business clients.

Another link between the two organizations is Bay Bank President Jeff Bowman, who helped found FACC and currently sits on the organization’s board of directors. “That’s a great connection between us,” Mejchar said.

Referrals also go between the two organizations. Bay Bank may recommend a customer without enough equity to receive a traditional business loan work with FACC first. Once FACC clients grow and can work with a traditional bank, Bay Bank hopes to be that option, King said.

“FACC fosters economic development in Native communities. They provide great technical assistance that helps businesses grow,” he said.

Based in Hales Corners, a Milwaukee suburb, FACC also provides its clients with business development services, such as assistance with business planning, business management assistance, and financial management assistance, along with application assistance for minority and disadvantaged business certifications.

Although Bay Bank works closely with FACC, King said it also has good relationships with the state’s three other Native-run CDFIs: Wisconsin Native Loan Fund in Lac du Flambeau; First Nations Community Financial in Black River Falls; and NiiJii Capital Partners Inc. in Keshena.