Ned Huffman from Bellwether Enterprise and Rob Curry from the Cleveland Housing Network

CLEVELAND—As reported in GlobeSt.com, Bellwether Enterprise Real Estate Capital, LLC recently entered into a merger agreement with Towle Financial Services, a mortgage banking firm in Minneapolis and Detroit, and Ned Huffman, Bellwether’s president, says the company is ready to grow even more.

He wants Bellwether Enterprise to have a true national presence, with personnel handling affordable and market-rate business in every region, he tells GlobeSt.com. Although the most important factor in opening a new office or completing a merger is finding the right local partner, “we are especially interested in finding opportunities in some of the areas in the country where we’re currently light,” such as the Southeast. The company does have an office in Raleigh that handles affordable housing, but “we need to go deeper than that.”

Bellwether currently has a total annual loan volume of about $2.4 billion and “the goal within two or three years is to get to $3.5 to $4.0 billion a year,” he says. The Cleveland-based company has been expanding across the country in recent months, opening up a Western Regional office in California and another office in Boston. The Towle deal, which will close in September, establishes a company presence in Minneapolis and Detroit for the first time and will bring about $400 million in annual loan volume and $1.4 billion in servicing.

In addition to increasing its national reach, Bellwether Enterprise has also recently landed some big deals. The City of Cleveland, for example, just approved plans to develop over 20 acres of lakefront property near its central business district, a project which will help transform part of the city’s lakefront from an industrial area into a place where people live and play. Bellwether Enterprise will provide loan origination and financing strategy for the $700 million project, which will put more than 1,000 apartments on Lake Erie.

In 2012, Bellwether Enterprise was formed when Columbia, MD-based Enterprise Community Investment Inc., a provider of low-to-moderate income mortgage products, merged with Bellwether, which focused on market-rate real estate, and Huffman says such a partnership makes perfect sense for a company looking to expand.

“There are a lot of market-rate apartment developers that are active in affordable housing and vice-versa,” and after this merger they can use one firm. “When a customer comes to us, we like to be able to provide full services.”

“The fact that Enterprise is a mission-based organization also provides a great deal of comfort,” Huffman adds, “since that means they have a solid long-term business plan focused on generating earnings through cash flow.”

“We’re certainly proud of the work that Enterprise does, but it’s also very clear that their intention with this business is in line with what we’re trying to do.”