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Calif.-based lending platform sees potential in Columbia commercial real estate market

Real Estate - Commercial
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San Francisco-based lending platform Plum Inc. will announce $100 million in newly available capital for commercial real estate owners in Columbia and surrounding areas at an event Tuesday morning at the Capital City Club.

Bill Fisher, Plum founder and CEO, said the company identified Columbia as one of several “underserved markets” nationwide with potential for commercial growth and a lack of financer competition.

Bill Fisher

“We have earmarked up to $100 million that we would like to lend in what we believe is a great marketplace in the next 12 months,” Fisher said. “Our intention is to build a national franchise around these vibrant smaller markets. We intend for that national franchise to be committed to the Columbia market and the rest of these markets for the long-term.”

The available capital targets private borrowers and could impact office, retail, industrial, or multi-family apartment construction, Fisher said. Plum launched a similar initiative in Boise, Idaho, in April and will visit Madison, Wis., in May.

The three cities share several attractive features, Fisher said. Small markets with few lending competitors outside of commercial banks, they are also home to four-year universities that tend to drive economic growth and the existing government infrastructure present in state capitals.

“These markets, in many regards, outperform the Bay Area or New York,” Fisher said “They certainly have a lot less volatility. These secondary markets are becoming the primary markets of tomorrow.”

Fisher, a former executive vice president with Wells Fargo Bank, founded Plum in 2014 with backing from the founders of Capital One and from Chinese social network company Renren. Plum focuses on delivering commercial real estate loans ranging from $1 to $15 million in a game-changing way.

“One of the idiosyncrasies of commercial real estate has always been that lenders do not reach out to borrowers,” Fisher said. “Lenders wait for borrowers to put together a package, and then the borrower markets itself to the lender, who then sits in judgment. We’ve turned that process on its head.”

Plum mines data to identify commercial real estate owners who may benefit from an infusion of capital, then contacts them. The company shares relevant information on how to improve management and performances with borrowers, Fisher said.

Plum is also preparing to launch a “design-your-own-loan” function, where a borrower can pinpoint the elements most important to them, be it lowest payment, longest fixed-rate term, or maximum amount of loan proceeds.

“They’re going to have the opportunity, for the first time ever in commercial real estate, to design their own loan,” Fisher said.

Tuesday’s event will take place from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. and also feature Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin, Historic Columbia Executive Director Robin Waites, and Dan Van Dyke, executive vice president of real estate economics consulting firm Rosen Consulting Group. Local commercial real estate owners, investment advisors and property managers are encouraged to attend.

“We had a terrific response as we’ve reached out to commercial real estate owners in the community, along with advisors, attorneys, and property management professionals,” Fisher said. “If the audiences like what they hear, then word spreads organically.”

Reach staff writer Melinda Waldrop at 803-726-7543.

Contact Melinda Waldrop at 803-726-7542.

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