Santa Rosa's State Assistance for Enterprise, Business and Industrial Development Corp., the non-depository lender better known as SAFE-BIDCO, has raised the profile of its agricultural lending program after boosting the dollars it can lend through a new arrangement with the state and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

SAFE-BIDCO, which specializes in a number of niche lending products from state and federal sources, received authorization in late 2011 to use capital from the state loan guarantee trust fund to help collateralize those farm loans. Those trust funds, in turn, are now guaranteed by the USDA.

While the lender has long offered agricultural loans backed by the USDA through its Farm Service Agency Guarantee program, the volume of lending possible through that program was limited. Through the new arrangement, SAFE-BIDCO is able to offer more guaranteed agricultural loans by using the larger pool of dollars allocated from California's contribution to the trust that backs the state loan guarantee program.

The lender has also been aggressively advertising those loans beyond the North Bay, with a focus on the Central Valley region. Borrowers must be owners or tenant operators of a family farm and demonstrate that they have failed to obtain financing from a traditional lender. Loans range from $10,000 to $500,000, and are usable for working capital, equipment purchases and other common requirements. Interest terms are dependent on the purpose of the loan.

The farm loan program is not the only USDA-backed lending that has recently expanded at SAFE-BIDCO. The lender received an additional $400,000 loan from the USDA in September to boost financing through its rural loan program, which provides fixed-rate financing to non-farm businesses in California's rural counties.***

Bank of Marin Bancorp (NASDAQ: BMRC), parent company of Bank of Marin, opened a new branch office in Tiburon's Cove Shopping Center on Nov. 19, replacing a former branch in the town of Strawberry.

[caption id="attachment_65605" align="alignleft" width="180"] Jackie Williams[/caption]

Opening the new branch also represents an expansion of the bank's focus in Tiburon, including the appointment of Jackie Williams as market manager for Tiburon and Sausalito. Ms. Williams managed the bank's Strawberry branch for fourteen years.

The new branch will be managed by Jill Selden, who managed Union Bank's Tiburon branch for two years and formerly served as assistant branch manager in Tiburon for Wells Fargo.

The move is the latest in a series of key staff developments for Bank of Marin. The Bank appointed new advisory board for Sonoma County early this year, and has grown its staff focused on wine and commercial lending in Sonoma and Napa counties.***

Wells Fargo N.A. launched a new homebuyer assistance program known as CityLIFT. The program provides mortgage down-payment assistance of up to $20,000 for eligible homebuyers in areas most impacted by the housing crisis.

The program is a collaboration between Wells Fargo, city officials in Alameda and Contra Costa counties, NeighborWorks America and the Unity Council.

While the program is targeted in the East Bay, prospective North Bay homebuyers are also eligible. Applicants must make no more than 120 percent of the area median income and attend an eight-hour homebuyer education session with a HUD-approved counselor such as The Unity Council, as well as offer and a commitment to stay in the home for five years and qualify for a first mortgage on the property.  Participating homebuyers can obtain mortgage financing from any qualified lender.

More information is available at wellsfargo.com/citylift.***

Submit items for this column to eric.gneckow@busjrnl.com or call 707-521-4259.