EVANSTON — The Uinta County Economic Development Commission meeting on March 24 included two very informative presentations.
For the first presentation, Evanston City Councilman David Welling was asked to introduce Greg Astle, Director of Compliance and Tax Credits with the lending institution MoFi, and Dave Glaser, President of MoFi, which utilize the New Market Tax Credit (NMTC) federal program. They joined the meeting via Zoom.
Welling said in 2019, when Evanston was designated as a federal Opportunity Zone, he was asked to be on the NMTC Advisory Board. He then turned the time over to Glaser to explain NMTC’s purpose and the process for receiving the tax credits for loans.
“MoFi has provided loans to individual businesses outside the financial mainstream across the Rocky Mountain West since 1987. NMTC is a federal program specified for rural and low-income areas. The loans provide up to 20% of a total project’s costs. We expanded into Wyoming in 2017 and since Uinta County is a designated Opportunity Zone it qualifies as a low-income area,” Glaser said.
Glaser explained there are two types of loans — a “thrive” loan and a “boost” loan. The seven-year thrive loan consists of up to $100,000 borrowed at 3% interest, with only the interest being paid for the first two years. A small grant may also be included in that loan to pay the cover fees. Glaser said this loan can be used for working capital, to purchase equipment or to cover COVID expenses. After the first two years, the interest rate is increased. The only collateral needed is the business’s assets.
The boost loan is designed for start-up businesses, existing businesses and for purchases. Glaser said this is a term loan with a line of credit and a 9% fixed interest rate. There are no prepayment penalties and the online application process is fast and easy to navigate. There are also paycheck protection loans, which can be granted up to $250,000 for self-employed, sole proprietors and independent contractors. The average loan in that category is approximately $26,000.
“When an NMTC loan is awarded, there is no out-of-pocket cost for the recipient and the only eligibility requirements are they must have a 625 credit score and show they have been in operation and have had positive net income for a year before application,” Glaser said.
According to the New Market Tax Credit website, the NMTC was established in 2000. Congress authorizes the amount of credit, which the U.S. Treasury then allocates to qualified applicants. Investors provide capital to community development entities (CDEs), and in exchange are awarded credits against their federal tax obligations. The tax credit provides an incentive for investment in low-income communities.
From 2003 through 2020, the program has parceled out credits worth $26 billion. The CDEs are intermediaries that make loans or investments. Many enterprises, including banks, developers and local governments, can qualify to become CDEs. They apply to the Treasury Department’s Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund to receive tax credit authority. The CDEs then sell these tax credits to investors and use the funds to make debt or equity investments in entities located in qualified low-income communities.
Qualified active low-income community for-profit or nonprofit enterprises can receive NMTC investments. The NMTC program is flexible regarding project type and purpose and can be used to finance equipment, operations or real estate.
“The NMTC has multiple benefits for the business owner. It provides a pathway to bankability, improves credit scores, increases profit and cash flow, builds net worth and establishes a relationship with the bank. Our first project in Wyoming was the Cobblestone Hotel and Suites in Torrington. Our more recent project was the expansion of the Ivinson Memorial Hospital in Laramie,” Greg Castle said.
“To qualify for the loan, the project must have a total estimated cost of $5 million, be located in a low-income census tract and deliver a strong community benefit. There is a 20% grant of the total project cost that can be used as a down payment on a commercial loan. There have been some challenges to make a project fit. This year we have received $55 million to work with. The online application process is fast and easy and we encourage Evanston business owners to apply,” Castle said.
Sterling Urgent Care representatives Samantha Evans, Occupational and Membership Director; Stacey Clyde, R.N. Clinical Director; and Kandace Fernandez, Clinic Manager at Rock Springs and Evanston, were the other presenters. The commission had viewed a video presentation from Sterling Urgent Care at the February meeting and the three women were there to answer any questions and provide additional information.
“The clinic opened here in Evanston in February and is open six days a week, Monday through Saturday, from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. We provide primary care with no copay required. Sterling is employer-owned through membership. Members have unlimited access to our clinics in Wyoming, Utah and Idaho,” said Evans. “Employees are seen quicker and diagnosed and this helps to avoid a catastrophic illness. The only time they would have to use a major health insurance is for a major medical event. The employer signs a contract for the first 12 months and then after that it is a month-to-month billing, which is based on the employees they have at the beginning of each month.”
The clinic also honors Medicaid, Medicare and all insurance. Evans said they hire nurse practitioners who have had emergency room experience and a physician is always supervising and available when needed. For life-threatening cases, they will send the patient to the nearest hospital and the case management department will make referrals and schedule appointments with specialists. They will also negotiate price rates for the patient with hospitals and specialists. The clinic offers the additional benefit of telehealth visits.
Clyde said, “When an employee leaves their employment where they have been a member of Sterling, they can sign up privately to keep the membership at the same rate. We’ve had a lot of patients who are so pleased with the care at Sterling they don’t want to lose that membership.”
Sterling Urgent Care plans to open 10 more clinics in the next two years. The company focuses on building in rural areas with 5-10,000 population base and requires the probability of a minimum of 600 members before selecting to build.
Clyde added, “We are offering any employer that signs up a free membership for individual employees and a reduced rate for a family of four for the first three months. We see patients for workers’ compensation injuries, occupational therapy, drug and alcohol testing, sports physicals and more.”
Chair Dan Wheeler than asked Rocco O’Neill for an update on the economic development website. O’Neill said they are now going to start GeoFence target marketing, which means they will set beacons around businesses identified through a target list of industries, site selectors and large land developers. Banner ads will be pushed to the mobile devices of those who enter into the target area. O’Neill said this will greatly expand exposure and tracking.
Finally, Owen Peterson reported on events in the Bridger Valley, “The Mountain Man Rendezvous will take place this year, Sept. 3-6, and they predict the number of people attending will double in size.”