Montana's wildfire season came a little early this year, as a result of drier-than-normal and windy conditions. But, Bridger Aerospace (BA), a company based in Belgrade, Mont., was ready to answer the call with their two new CL-415EAF "Super Scooper" fire suppression aircraft.
Through USDA Rural Development's Business & Industry Loan Guarantee Program, Bridger Aerospace was able to complete the purchase of these two planes, which are unique water-scooping aircraft that are used to assist wildland firefighting through aerial suppression. And, with a vivid red-and-yellow color scheme, these air-based emergency response resources, which are part of Bridger Aerospace’s larger fleet, are hard to miss.
"This summer, you will see the Super Scoopers in the skies fighting forest fires with environmentally-friendly water for the federal and state governments," said McAndrew Rudisill, the chief investment officer for Bridger Aerospace.
Bridger Aerospace chose to pursue a USDA Business & Industry loan as a result of advice the company received from Live Oak Bank. The bank suggested that USDA Rural Development would be an optimal financing partner because BA's business model aligned with the USDA Rural Development's mission of expanding infrastructure and employment in rural Montana.
"BA's work fighting forest fires through aerial suppression with the purpose-built CL-415EAF 'Super Scooper' aircraft has created many new high-paying jobs for skilled workers in rural Montana and generated substantial development around the Belgrade community," Rudisill added.
But, to get to the point of procurement, BA required long-term financing to match the Super Scooper's thirty year lifespan. In doing the research, Rudisill and his team recognized that the USDA Business & Industry loan terms corresponded not only with the required cost of capital and loan-term duration that BA needed to expand its fleet of aircraft, but would allow the company to repay the loan in a reasonable amount of time. Since the USDA Business & Industry Loan Guarantee Program offers loan guarantees to lenders, lenders can then, in turn, offer larger loans to rural businesses. In this case, with the USDA Business & Industry loan guarantee in place, Bridger Aerospace was able to obtain the financing it needed for this larger acquisition.
"The process of working with the USDA was comprehensive and systematic," Rudisill noted. "We appreciated the partnership and experience with Live Oak Bank to help guide us through the USDA process and recommend that any company preparing to apply for a B&I loan with the USDA should be very organized in their approach and be prepared to answer detailed questions about their business model and use of capital proceeds from the loan."
There's no question as to how Bridger Aerospace, a Veteran-owned and operated company, applied their funding, and no question that Montana will be grateful to have these two additional aircraft in use during this busy wildfire season, and for many more to come.
Of note, USDA is making available up to $1 billion in loan guarantees to help rural businesses meet their working capital needs during the coronavirus pandemic. The application deadline is September 15, 2021, or until funds made available for this purpose are expended. Please see the Business & Industry CARES Act Program website for additional information.