CEO, The O’Neil Group Company and Founder of Catalyst Campus Center for Technology & Innovation
DUAL DEVELOPMENT - The story of Academy Bank’s Done Deal for Catalyst Campus for Technology and Innovation is one of collaboration, development, flexibility and ultimately, trust. Founded by entrepreneur Kevin O’Neil, a Colorado Springs native and CEO of The O’Neil Group Company, Catalyst Campus is a collaborative ecosystem for research and development, in which government, engineering, academic, technical and industrial partnerships share space, resources, ideas and success. Projects and partnerships developed at Catalyst Campus advance and accelerate technologies related to aerospace, communication, cybersecurity, data analytics and manufacturing, essential to America’s economy and national security.
While Catalyst Campus helps drive technological development, it also serves as an economic development engine for Colorado Springs, supporting local engineering firms, helping to launch new companies, creating high-paying jobs, providing training for new certifications, retaining talented professionals, and attracting business and investment from across the country.
Catalyst Campus makes its home in the historic former Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe railroad depot located at the intersection of Pikes Peak and Colorado Avenues in Downtown Colorado Springs.
In addition to tenant office space, the renovated 100-year-old main building features SCIF-level construction and IT infrastructure, fiber internet, collaborative workspaces, classrooms, laboratories and shared social and event spaces. Three buildings on the eight-acre campus currently offer a total of 97,000 square feet and space continues to expand to accommodate new tenants and facilities as part of a developing downtown technology corridor.
As of October 2018, 40 tenants occupy and share space at Catalyst Campus, including the United States Air Force, Deloitte, Microsoft, Georgia Tech Research Institute, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and Braxton Technologies.
VALUE BEYOND VALUATION
In the words of Academy Bank Senior Vice President, Steve Ingham, “There’s nothing typical about this campus, its tenants, or for that matter, its business model. When Kevin decided to refinance, he knew he needed an innovative lender with the vision to see the true worth of this project. He knew he needed a flexible bank with higher loan limits, the latitude to make things happen, and people he could trust to get a complex deal done right.”
Mr. O’Neil tells it this way, “We enjoy working with our community banks, but when you begin pressing their upper limits, things can get fuzzy because they’re having to participate those loans. We’ve dealt with big banks before, and the staffing and relationships seem to change overnight. All banks live with regulation, but some are too locked into their own rigid process modes for their own good, or yours. Academy Bank stays flexible and operates in help mode. They offer the lending power and know-how of a larger bank with the attitude and commitment of a community bank.
“Even though this was our first loan together, I was confident in Academy. I’ve seen the way they work with their customers to solve problems and capitalize on opportunities.
“They are quick in assessing opportunities and knowing whether the business is a good fit,” O’Neil says. “Academy Bank sees the value beyond the valuation. By the time we had our first face-to-face meeting, our Academy loan officers, Steve Ingham and John Autry, had already spoken to their lending committee and were ready to begin drafting a deal. For the first time in a decade, we found ourselves doing business on mutual trust.”
GETTING THE RIGHT DEAL DONE
As Academy Bank Vice President, John Autry, explains, “Catalyst Campus isn’t the easiest concept for lenders to wrap their arms around. We have rarely been involved in a project organizing such a large number and diversity of funding sources – so getting to a true picture of the right deal took immersion and analysis; investments that Academy was willing to make.”
In addition to a refinance, Mr. O’Neil was seeking a line of credit to finish renovations and improvements to campus facilities and infrastructure. Academy Bank came through with a term loan that locked in a very favorable rate, as well as a line of credit for the remaining work on the renovation. The flexible terms were just what Mr. O’Neil was seeking.
“Other banks would have been challenged by the fact that we needed capacity over and above the term loan; a line of credit for things that don’t necessarily produce immediate revenue,” O’Neil said. “Most lines of credit are tied to expenditures that make money, like tenant improvements. Academy gave us the trust and flexibility to build a quality environment that isn’t measured only by revenue, but also by value, with infrastructure, features and spaces that make companies and their employees want to work here.
“I guess the really surprising part was that there were no surprises. So many times, at the 11th hour, some new development or request is dropped on your desk, forcing you to spend more money or delay your closing.
“We were delighted that with Academy, everything was done right the first time and we didn’t have a bunch of new last-minute covenants or concerns. Every item was fully explained. Plus, Steve and John are just excellent people, very easy to work with, and they worked hard to make this deal easy for us.
“Although this is a brick and mortar real estate deal, I also recommend Academy Bank to businesses within the Catalyst Campus community,” said O’Neil. “I tell them that with Academy, what you see is what you get, and what they promise is what they deliver.
“Academy Bank chose to believe in our model while making this deal. They committed to us and our idea, the same way they commit to Colorado Springs.”
Since Mr. O’Neil began delivering the vision of Catalyst Campus, it has become one of the most celebrated commercial projects in the area. Its outstanding appeal and effectiveness as an economic engine and a driver of technological development, already evident, only continue to grow, as does the campus itself and the technology corridor now taking shape around it.
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