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EDA exec moves to nonprofit lender in Camden

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Veteran business lender Laura L. Wallick is leaving the New Jersey Economic Development Authority and moving to the state's leading provider of microloans.
Veteran business lender Laura L. Wallick is leaving the New Jersey Economic Development Authority and moving to the state's leading provider of microloans.

Veteran business lender Laura L. Wallick is leaving the state Economic Development Authority, which last year provided $590 million in financing statewide, and moving to a Camden-based nonprofit lender that is New Jersey's leading provider of microloans.

While the scale of these two organizations is quite different, Wallick said their missions are very much the same: helping businesses obtain financing to expand and create jobs.

Wallick, who joined EDA in 1986, was director of business banking for the agency and oversaw the EDA’s investment of more than $160 million in Camden through the Camden Economic Recovery Board, including the EDA’s Waterfront Technology Center, a commercial office/laboratory space. On Tuesday she joins the Cooperative Business Assistance Corp. in Camden as a senior commercial lending officer.

Over the past two years, CBAC has closed 120 loans totaling $3 million, which includes microloans and a variety of other loans programs. The U.S. Small Business Administration lends money to several New Jersey nonprofit lenders which then make microloans, which are loans of up to $50,000, to small businesses. The average microloan in New Jersey is $19,000.

CBAC has been the state’s leading microlender, by far, in recent years, according to Harry Menta, spokesman for the SBA New Jersey office. Menta said it is “very good news” that CBAC is adding another commercial lender who will further expand small-business lending in southern New Jersey: “This is great, because the more loan officers that you have on the ground who can market the program to business, the more loans that are going to be made.”

Wallick said CBAC “is very customer-focused on assisting small businesses.” She said a key goal is helping small businesses graduate from microloans to conventional bank financing, and that CBAC partners with New Jersey banks on lending packages for small business. Besides microloans, CBAC offers a variety of other loan programs, some targeted to low-income borrowers, minorities and women, as well as technical assistance to help businesses overcome operational issues. “It is a small organization but they have been very successful, and I think I can bring to them experience that I have gained at the EDA.” Wallick said at EDA her work ranged from assisting businesses as small as one or two people, to overseeing EDA financing of infrastructure improvement for the headquarters expansion of Camden-based Campbell Soup.

Menta of the SBA said in the fiscal year ended last Sept. 30, CBAC made about 60 microloans for a total $1.3 million to small businesses, enabling them to retain 477 employees and hire 159 additional workers.

Michele Brown, chief executive of EDA, said, “For over 25 years at the EDA, Laura has helped to create thousands of new job opportunities for New Jersey residents. Laura’s work with small businesses and her significant impact in the city of Camden have been critical to the state’s efforts to grow New Jersey’s economy, and we will miss her professionalism, know-how and passion. The EDA’s loss is certainly CBAC’s gain, and New Jersey is fortunate that Laura will continue to focus on helping small businesses access the capital they need to thrive.”

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