By Natalie Bay, Government Lending Relationship Officer at Greater Commercial Lending

The island of Puerto Rico became the backdrop for an important gathering of minds in the world of rural lending this past August. The National Rural Lending Investment Summit, a joint initiative of the Small Business Administration (SBA), National Rural Lenders’ Roundtable (NRLR), and USDA Rural Development, brought together professionals, policymakers, and advocates from across the country to discuss the future of rural lending investment.

As a Government Lending Relationship Officer at Greater Commercial Lending, I had the privilege of attending this year’s summit at the Sheraton Convention Center Hotel in Puerto Rico. It was a truly enlightening experience, filled with informative sessions, engaging discussions, and networking opportunities that promise to help strengthen the economic development of rural areas and reinforce long-term economic prosperity.

Businesses in territories like Puerto Rico encounter significant challenges when seeking traditional lending resources. Furthermore, a history of high public debt and financial mismanagement contributes to a perception of risk among potential lenders. These combined challenges create hurdles for businesses in securing affordable credit, impeding their growth and sustainability.

With communities throughout Puerto Rico facing unique challenges and obstacles, the summit was a vital platform to exchange ideas and explore innovative solutions. I was honored to participate in the Lender Panel, where we discussed how loans guaranteed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) can be used to help bolster communities and businesses across Puerto Rico.

The USDA offers a variety of guaranteed loan programs that enable financial institutions to arrange packages of capital, at favorable terms, for businesses and projects that typically wouldn’t have access to traditional financing that meets their needs, time horizons, and cost parameters. These loans offer immense benefits to rural and under-served communities – creating economic opportunities and improving the quality of life for millions.

The event further reinforced the importance of our work at Greater Commercial Lending and the broader lending community in supporting the growth and prosperity of rural America and its territories. I am grateful for the opportunity to have been part of this transformative gathering and look forward to implementing the knowledge and insights gained to better serve borrowers across the island of Puerto Rico. Together, we can ensure that rural businesses have access to the capital they need to thrive and contribute to the strength of our nation’s economy.