Vermont Community Loan Fund lends $1.58 million in 4th quarter 2021

-A A +A

Vermont Community Loan Fund lends $1.58 million in 4th quarter 2021

Wed, 04/06/2022 - 4:26pm -- tim

Vermont Business Magazine There were plenty of reasons why Sydney Swindell, Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT), wanted to open her new practice, Fyzical Therapy & Balance Center, in Vermont.

For starters, Vermont’s aging population, famously among the nation’s oldest, would provide a ready and growing market for her services. She also understood that our state’s extremely active population, regardless of age, would need her; as Sydney observes, while an active lifestyle boosts personal fitness and health, it can also increase risk of injury. “And,” she notes, “we’ve also learned that self-care has fallen off for a lot of us during the pandemic, which is leading to lower fitness levels throughout the population.” Then, she adds with a smile: “Also, I fell in love with Vermont.”

Sydney and her team provide orthopedic rehabilitation, physiotherapy, sports rehab, therapy for clients with mobility and balance issues, or other limitations stemming from traumatic brain injury, stroke, neurodegenerative diseases, and, yes, aging.

Growing up in Georgia, Sydney enlisted in the U.S. Navy after high school, advancing in a career in the aerospace defense industry that took her to San Diego, Oklahoma and Spain. While in the military, she happened to shadow a physical therapist who was working with a new stroke patient. “When he first came in, he couldn’t stand up or talk. Six weeks later, he was walking with a cane,” she recalls. The experience was transformative for her, too. “I was hooked. I wanted to experience that kind of satisfaction from my work.”

So, after a decade in the Navy, Sydney and her family headed to Vermont in 2016, where she enrolled in UVM’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program. With her family happily settled into their new home, she began to envision her dream job – her own PT clinic – in her dream location in the Green Mountains. The clinic would be state-of-the-art, with cutting edge equipment and resources for her clients.

Before COVID-19, Sydney looked into financing her start-up clinic via traditional lenders. “You’d think, given that I’m female, and a veteran, and that I had good credit, I’d be an ideal candidate for a loan.” But she describes the repeated disappointment of being encouraged by banks throughout the application process, only to be denied a loan after several months of waiting and hoping, “because I couldn’t come up with the required 45% participation. I kept hitting that wall.”

The wait for banks’ responses gave Sydney time to explore different paths to owning her own practice. She found stand-alone clinics for sale, but eventually became intrigued by the Fyzical Therapy & Balance franchise. “Fyzical Therapy & Balance franchises are all independently owned,” she discovered, “and they also provide business support services like accounting, bookkeeping, electronic medical record keeping, discounts on equipment, even an operating manual.”

She identified a potential clinic site in high-traffic Williston, and began making plans. Then she brought her ideas to VCLF’s Director of Business and Early Care & Learning Programs Dan Winslow.

“Dan was very thorough and careful in reviewing my application,” Sydney says. His scrutiny of the details, she feels, led her to further refine her plans and vision for the clinic. “It made me an even better candidate for the loan, ultimately,” she says. When the Loan Fund’s ‘yes’ came through, Sydney and her team wasted no time. “We took possession of the property on January 1st, 2022, and I saw my first patient on February 1st.”

Via a recent Zoom visit, Sydney picks up her laptop and heads down the hall to provide a virtual tour of the new clinic. “So this is some of the equipment that our VCLF loan helped us buy,” she announces. “That’s a rebounder. It can work as a trampoline, too. Over there is some strength equipment, the exam table, and there,” she points, “is where the balance training system will go,” she says, referring to a computerized trolley with an 80-foot-long track system and safety harness, purchased with help from the Loan Fund.

Sydney’s ongoing plans include adding therapists, mental health services, plenty of classes, locavore meals on site, and much more. “I want to provide services that bridge the gap between what patients experience in the hospital to home health care”, focusing intensively on fall prevention, balance, regular motions like “squatting, walking, lifting, all the activities required in daily living,” she states. Also, she’d love to see the clinic as a nonprofit providing affordable care for all.

Had it not been for VCLF financing, she and her family probably would have left Vermont to practice elsewhere. “As much as my family loves it here, it wouldn’t have been feasible to stay if I hadn’t been able to open my own practice,” she tells. “VCLF took a chance on me, and I’m so grateful for that.”

Financing was also provided to:

Beaver Brook Children’s School, Wilmington
The little town of Wilmington had never had its own child care center, so when early care & learning professional Julie Koehler found the ideal location for a much-needed preschool program in Wilmington’s former high school building, she jumped at the chance, launching Beaver Brook Children’s School. She used VCLF financing as a bridge loan to cover payroll and operating costs while awaiting payment from supervisory unions for Universal Pre-K services. The loan helped preserve 30 child care slots and 10 jobs.

BGP, St. Johnsbury
Brandyn Gadapee applied to VCLF for financing to renovate a St. Johnsbury property to be leased by Community Restorative Justice Center (CRJC). CRJC serves individuals transitioning from incarceration, helping facilitate their reintegration into the community teaching new skills and helping with housing and other “wrap-around” support services. VCLF financing helped cover costs of a new roof, electrical system, windows and more, helping create three new transitional homes and one job.

David’s Snow Removal, Lyndonville
David Bundrage, a veteran of the US Armed Forces, started a residential snow & ice removal business in Lyndonville…an ideal location for such a business with its 84-96 inches of average annual snowfall! He used a VCLF loan to help finance purchase of a snowblower, a trailer with a hitch, a storage shed, and other supplies. The loan created one job.

RuralEdge, Brightlook Apartments, St. Johnsbury
When St. Johnsbury’s grand, landmark Brightlook Apartments building came on the market recently, affordable housing advocates were concerned that a for-profit developer would convert it into high-end condominiums, displacing many of the low-income and senior tenants already calling them home. Nonprofit, which creates and preserves affordable housing for low-income individuals and families in the Northeast Kingdom, stepped in, securing VCLF financing to purchase the property. The loan preserves 18 affordable homes and created 22 construction jobs.

Hollister Hill Farm, Marshfield
Hollister Hill Farm was for many years owned by the Light family, longtime VCLF borrowers. In 2021, they retired and sold the farm to Neil and Catherine Dunlop. Hollister Hill encompasses 205 acres including the B&B/farmhouse, several barns, a sugarhouse and extensive gardens. The farm business includes dairy cows, beef cattle, pigs, chickens, donkeys, goats, turkeys, maple, and fruit & vegetable production. The Dunlops used VCLF financing for on-farm improvements including weather-proofing, new refrigeration for market store products, updated signage and more. The loan helped preserve three jobs.

Mary Elizabeth Center & Preschool, Cambridge
When the rental property where Crystal Porter had operated the Mary Elizabeth Center & Preschool for 11 years was put up for sale, the price was well beyond her budget. Undeterred, Crystal pursued plans to move the program to her nearby 96-acre farm property. She used VCLF financing to help cover costs of installing a new yurt classroom, and related infrastructure costs including septic, water and electrical systems. In addition to the 15 childcare slots preserved by the program’s move, 20 new slots were created; two jobs were preserved and two new ones were created, as well.

Soulmate Brewing, Morrisville
Jonathan Mogor, a veteran of the US Armed Forces, and his wife Carol started Soulmate Brewing craft brewery and taproom in Morrisville on a stretch of Route 100 popular with craft beer enthusiasts from Vermont and beyond. Soulmate is one of seven tenants in the newly renovated building which also houses their new partner, Grazers restaurant, plus five additional Vermont artisanal food & beverage businesses. Soulmate used VCLF financing to cover equipment purchases and building improvements for their space in this new location. The loan created eight new jobs.