Live Oak Bank Chairman and CEO Chip Mahan said plans are in the works to create a downtown Wilmington building for the purpose of creating jobs and growing businesses.
In a video interview posted online Tuesday with Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo, the discussion between Mahan and Saffo turned toward economic pathways to addressing recent social justice issues. Mahan's Wilmington-headquartered Live Oak (Nasdaq: LOB) is one of the largest SBA lenders in the U.S.
The project would involve a building or campus in the general area of downtown Wilmington that would include Live Oak officials and others, Mahan said.
"We’re talking to a lot of folks in the community that will be helping us do that,” he told Saffo.
The mayor explained at the beginning of the interview, one of many Saffo has conducted for the city’s Rise Together initiative, that the interview was part of a bigger effort to talk about and address “social justice, police reform and economic issues that people have been facing and talking about for a number of years.”
The Wilmington City Council unanimously approved the Rise Together initiative Aug. 18 “to ensure that Wilmington is a community where every citizen is valued and shares in the same opportunities for prosperity and quality of life regardless of color, class, or creed,” according to the city’s website.
In his interview with the mayor, Mahan elaborated on the plan for the building, saying, “We’re going to put some wood behind the arrow here, Mr. Mayor. We’re going to build a building, and we’re going to house it with people that know and understand how to operate businesses, how to finance businesses either on the equity side or the debt side.”
Live Oak officials did not immediately respond to requests for more information on the project.
“The way he described it is a standalone building or campus that would allow people to come in and get training and go out into the world and get jobs,” Saffo said Wednesday.
There’s been a lot of talk over the years about a significant investment in a downtown incubator, Saffo said.
“I think there’s some momentum there for something like this to happen,” Saffo said. “I applaud him ... it would demonstrate to the community that not only are we talking about affordable housing and health care, but we’re also talking about jobs and job creation, which is also part of breaking down these walls of discrimination.”
At the start of the interview, Mahan mentioned Live Oak’s existing, major investments in various local organizations working on similar goals, including StepUp Wilmington, a nonprofit that helps people in the region find employment with a fair wage and job stability. Live Oak has also invested in Girls Leadership Academy of Wilmington (GLOW), an all-girls charter school, that aims for 100% of its students to graduate and go to college.
As for the incubator plan, part of the effort will require finding the right location, Saffo said.
“I think he’s committed to making some investment in the city that would tie into this whole job creation center,” the mayor said.
Live Oak’s own headquarters campus is at 1757 Tiburon Drive off Independence Boulevard in Wilmington.
Listen to more of Saffo's interview with Mahan below.