The Northland Foundation has recently closed loans totaling $423,923 to two start-ups and one expanding area business to help spur a strong regional economy and create and save jobs in northeastern Minnesota.
Back Country Resort, LLC, Deer River
Northern Lakes Chiropractic, LLC, Duluth
Proper Properties, LLC, Cloquet
In 2003 Pam Gipe and Chris Butler launched their Duluth-based business, BG Innovations (BGI). They could not have foreseen all the ups and downs of small business ownership back then, but together they have built a thriving organization.
This growing upper-Midwest tech company specializes in interactive learning solutions – technology applications – primarily for education/classrooms. The solutions they market include whiteboards and interactive flat panels, student response systems, projectors, document cameras, wireless tablets, and more.
BGI provides clients with technology plans, equipment and integration, installation, training, and after-sale service. School districts are the primary client base, and their service area includes Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and North and South Dakota.
Northland Foundation first worked with BGI on a term loan back in 2008, when the Great Recession hit and most traditional sources of financing such as banks pulled back on commercial lending just as businesses were struggling under the downturn.
This past spring, Pam and Chris reconnected with Northland under better circumstances, securing a loan to help manage fantastic growth. The Foundation was able to enroll the loan with DEED's Minnesota Small Business Loan Guarantee Program, with DEED backing up the lender at 80 percent of the loan amount (up to $250,000).
Co-owner Chris Butler says BGI has steadily grown over the last few years, but effectively doubled just since the onset of COVID. Cash flow became an issue this spring as large orders were being placed on PO. A working capital line of credit from the Northland Foundation has helped Pam and Chris finance major purchases from their vendors until receiving payment from their customers.
“Schools and other clients have been utilizing COVID relief funds to upgrade and replace outdated tools,” said Chris. “They're investing wisely in technology that not only supports distance but also in-person learning, now and for the long term, such as voice lift (audio enhancement) for teachers and LED touch-sensitive panels.”
Chris went on to explain that these panels are especially powerful for STEM learning. For example, students can interactively design an engine by manipulating 3-D images of parts right on the screen.
“The Northland Foundation has been a great resource for our business. Our recent loan has helped support BG Innovations through a period of fast growth, and we are really grateful,” concluded Chris.