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Native American Bank Honored for Innovative Financing Bringing Much-Needed Grocery Store to Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians
May 2019
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A community anchor grocery store for the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians in rural Northern Minnesota, with financing led by Denver's Native American Bank, has won a prestigious innovation award from a leading tribal professional group. 

The Native American Financial Officers Association (NAFOA) awarded Red Lake and its economic development arm, Ogaakaanigh Enterprises, the 2019 Small Deal of the Year Award for a grocery store and retail complex that eliminates a 60-mile round trip for healthy foods and everyday items. Native American Bank is the lead financing institution for the Red Lake complex.

NAFOA praised the partners in the Red Lake project, located 250 miles north of Minneapolis/St. Paul on the Red Lake Reservation, for their "creative use of multiple funding streams" over years of complex finance and development negotiations. 

"The project will create new permanent jobs, will keep more dollars in the community, and will allow residents to make healthier food choices," said Shannon Ward, Chief Lending Officer for Native American Bank. "The Red Lake Trading Post is an example of how tribal enterprises in remote or isolated locations can combat food insecurity while impacting the bottom line. Native American Bank is proud to have been a part of this effort."

The loan closing is the first Indian Country deal of its kind to comingle the federal New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) program with a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Business & Industry guaranty, on a project located on tribal trust land where the ground lease will serve as collateral. 

"Native American Bank was honored to serve as a problem-solver and trusted resource for creative financial solutions, with an empowered tribal community leading the way," said NAB CEO and President Tom Ogaard. "We hope to bring our understanding of sovereign governments and regulatory issues to even more community development projects in underserved tribal areas."

A newly expanded retail center will keep community spending within the Red Lake Band, contributing to jobs and furthering economic development for the underserved area. All land on the Red Lake Indian Reservation is held in trust for the whole tribe, with no private ownership, creating unique opportunities and challenges for community development.

The new retail complex nearly triples the sales area for the community to 26,000 square feet, including a dollar store, automotive department, an eat-in and take out deli, and a new convenience store to partner with the fuel operation. It will also add a bakery, coffee shop, and a Subway Franchise. Native American Bank supplied a majority of the financing for the $10.3 million complex, which is scheduled for a Summer 2019 opening date. 

The project spanned years of work among eight partners: Red Lake Retail Center, Inc. (Borrower), Ogaakaaning Enterprises formerly Red Lake, Inc. (Guarantor), Clearinghouse CDFI (Co-Lender), USDA Rural Development (Guarantor), Travois, Inc. (CDE Allocatee), PNC Financial Services (NMTC Investor), Brian Gorecki Real Estate Consultants LLC (NMTC Consultant), and Midwest Minnesota Community Development Corporation (Consultant and Grant Sponsor).     

Pictured Left to Right: Hattie Mitchell, NAFOA Treasurer / VaRene Martin, NAFOA 1st Vice President / Cristina Danforth, NAFOA President / Harvey Roy III, CEO Ogaakaaning Enterprises / The Honorable Darrell G. Seki, Sr., Red Lake Nation Chairman / Melanie Benjamin, NAFOA Secretary / Shannon Ward, Native American Bank, N.A. Chief Lending Officer / Joel Smith, Native American Bank, N.A. Chief Credit Officer.