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VantageSouth to move SBA hub to Charlotte

VantageSouth Bank is relocating its government guaranteed lending operation from Salisbury to Charlotte, as the bank hopes to boost its chances of finding employees with a rare skill set.

Chris Kwiatkowski, head of the division, said the move to University City is set for mid-June. Initially, 14 people will be based in the division, in Prosperity Place office park, he said. Plans call for adding about 15 employees over the next 12 months, he said.

The Charlotte-based operation will oversee the bank’s Small Business Administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture Business and Industry program lending in North Carolina and the other states where it’s providing such loans, Kwiatkowski said.

By moving the division to Charlotte, the bank is seeking to make it easier to lure prospective employees with expertise in what is a niche area of lending, he said. SBA lending rules are complex, and they change frequently, bankers say.

“This type of talent isn’t easily found,” he said. “We have to look all across the region – and sometimes across the country – for people who have this certain skill set.

“Getting them to move is not an easy task. But when you have a location like Charlotte, North Carolina, it makes it more attractive.”

Jeff Cramer knows what Kwiatkowski is going through. Cramer, senior lending executive for Yadkin Valley Bank, which in January opened a small-business loan center in one of its bank branches in Monroe, said people with experience in SBA lending are hard to find.

Despite the difficulty in finding employees experienced in the area of SBA loans, VantageSouth is trying to expand that part of its business. According to federal data, Raleigh-based VantageSouth is the fourth-largest lender of SBA 7(a) loans, the most common SBA loan. From October to the end of April, the bank approved 21 such 7(a) loans worth a cumulative $15 million.

Wells Fargo was No. 1 and far surpassed VantageSouth’s volume. Wells approved 67 loans, which totaled $25.2 million.

This year, VantageSouth extended its SBA and USDA lending to Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Tennessee and the District of Columbia, Kwiatkowski said. Before that, the bank was providing such loans only in North and South Carolina and Virginia.

“We’re moving to Charlotte simply because we are growing,” Kwiatkowski said.

Last year, VantageSouth’s SBA lending totaled $43 million, he said. This year, he said, the bank is shooting for as much as $90 million in SBA and USDA loans, with SBA loans making up the lion’s share.

Kwiatkowski said the bank’s Prosperity Place operation will be about 7,000 square feet, roughly double the size of the Salisbury space the division operates out of.

Cramer said Yadkin Valley Bank’s small-business lending center in Monroe is the bank’s one and only. The bank employs two people in the center, which is in a Yadkin Valley branch.

Cramer, of Yadkin Valley Bank, said he’s seeing growth in demand for SBA loans. The bank is No. 8 among North Carolina SBA lenders, according to the SBA.

“We have a good pipeline going into the second quarter,” Cramer said. “I wouldn’t say it’s gangbusters.

“We’re seeing an uptick, but a cautious uptick.”

Fortunately for Yadkin Valley Bank, he said, it had two employees who could be promoted to oversee SBA lending at the Monroe center.

Banks that want to do SBA lending must have staff members who can stay current on the latest SBA rules, he said.

“There is constant change with their operating manual,” he said.

Lynn Douthett, SBA’s North Carolina district director, said there’s been an increased appetite for SBA loans since the financial crisis. But there are too few people to handle the workload, she said.

“The people that you see who are SBA lenders have been in this business a long time,” she said.

“We have a demand issue and a supply issue.”

Roberts: 704-358-5248; Twitter: @DeonERoberts
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