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Jobs Act funds to help Chantilly bank grow

Virginia Heritage Bank of Chantilly is one of six community banks nationwide to receive a slice of the Treasury Department’s $30 billion Small Business Lending Fund, according to a report released last week by the agency.

The announcement comes weeks after members of Congress questioned why the program had yet to dole out a dime nine months after its formation under the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010.

A total of 869 banks have applied to the program to date, requesting $11.6 billion in funding. Only $123 million has been distributed. Awards, however, will be announced on a rolling basis throughout the summer as the Treasury completes final due diligence on applications that have received preliminary approval.

Officials at the agency would not divulge an exact number of banks that fall into that category. Bethesda-based EagleBank said it has been approved for $56.6 million, a transaction chairman and chief executive Ronald Paul anticipates will close in 30 days.

In exchange for $15.3 million in funding, Virginia Heritage issued 15,300 shares of preferred stock to the Treasury, as custom for participation in the program. The initial dividend rate is 1 percent, but could jump to 7 percent if lending does not increase in the first two years.

Virginia Heritage scored the lowest available rate because its commercial loan balances have grown well more than 10 percent in the past several quarters, according to chief executive David Summers. He said the bank, with $481.5 million in assets and four locations in Northern Virginia, has had a “good pipeline of deals.” On average, the bank originates $10 million in loans a month.

Back in November, the bank raised $5.3 million to maintain its lending activity. Summers, however, felt there wasn’t enough market appetite to raise additional capital and turned to the lending fund.

“It looked like a good alternative for us,” he said. “Had we not had access to this program we would have had to curb our growth.”

With funds in hand, Summers plans to hire two more lending officers and expand marketing efforts to target Hispanic small businesses, as part of the lending proposal submitted to the Treasury.

Submitting a lending plan was one of many boxes for banks to check off before the agency began its process of consulting with regulators to vet the applications. Requiring applications to be reviewed and approved by a bank’s primary supervisor has left the agency “vulnerable to the time it takes those regulators to be careful in their review,” Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner explained during a House Small Business Committee hearing in late June.

Even with funds flowing, industry experts don’t anticipate lending activity to surge. Banking analyst Lew Sosnowik of Koonce Securities in Bethesda suspects banks will continue to “cherry pick” the loans they make, choosing quality over quantity in a stricter regulatory environment.

David Danielson, president of banking consultant firm Danielson Associates in Bethesda, agrees the program is unlikely to spur tremendous activity, but expects the low cost of capital to encourage lending.



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