Community bank teamwork keeps Blandin Foundation renovation financing local

Grand Rapids, Minn.—A consortium of six Itasca County community banks, led by Grand Rapids State Bank, have partnered to provide the Blandin Foundation financing for $6.1 million to pay off $3.6 million of existing debt as well as $2.5 million in new tax-exempt bonds to fund a building improvement project at the Foundation’s headquarters building in Grand Rapids.  The 4,000-square-foot project reconstructs the previous 80-seat auditorium into three levels, including a community meeting space on the top floor.  Work will be substantially complete in early February 2016. 

Blandin Foundation has provided space for local nonprofits to meet since the building was first built 30 years ago.  Today, more than 1,000 community meetings are held at Blandin Foundation each year.  Local bank funding also allows the foundation to refinance part of the outstanding $20 million bond debt it incurred several years ago to help fund construction of Grand Itasca Clinic and Hospital.

Last week, the Itasca County Board authorized, using their tax-exempt financing status, Blandin Foundation’s $2.5 million debt issuance. This is considered conduit debt and does not cost Itasca County any money. Through this partnership, the Foundation will receive a more favorable interest rate and will be solely responsible for the debt. 

“Good work starts with good conversation” said Blandin Foundation President and CEO Dr. Kathleen Annette.  “We look forward to welcoming our nonprofit partners back into a space especially suited to the kind of conversations that spark impact.  In addition to the many local vendors involved, the participation of our local community banks means even more impact.”

The local bank consortium providing the financing led by Grand Rapids State Bank also includes American Bank of the North, Deerwood Bank, First National Bank of Bigfork, First National Bank of Coleraine, and Northview Bank.  All of these independently-owned community banks do business and have a presence in many of the Blandin Foundation’s “home communities” in northern Minnesota.

“We knew when we were contacted by the Blandin Foundation about our interest in this project that we should involve other area community banks in financing what is a true community project,”  said Noah Wilcox, Grand Rapids State Bank President and Chief Executive Officer.  “The importance of the loan dollars flowing through the community is substantial and proven, and having the Blandin Foundation bank locally helps ensure their dollars have a multiplier effect in our area.”

“Changes in the banking industry’s landscape in the past few years have opened opportunities for this kind of collaboration and leadership, and the foundation appreciates local businesses pulling together to assist us in wise stewardship of our financial resources, said Mike Johnson, Blandin Foundation board chairman.  “The leadership demonstrated by our local banking community is a strong signal that our businesses place the vibrancy of the region front and center in their work.”