The commercial real estate market might still be in the tank, especially in downtown Baltimore, but Frank P. Bramble, chief executive of MNC Financial Inc., has a message for the business community: MNC is looking for a few good borrowers.
"As hard as it may be for many of you to believe, we are interested in lending money in both the real estate sector and the wholesale [business] sector," Mr. Bramble told a breakfast seminar in Towson sponsored by the accounting firm Kamanitz, Uhlfelder & Permison, P.A.
It was the first time Mr. Bramble had gone public to announce what he has been communicating to MNC's 7,000 employees in meetings over the past four months or so.
"I think there's a perception in the marketplace that MNC is out of the construction and commercial real estate lending business," he said. "That's not true."
What is true is that "the day of what I call the 'what-made-America-great' loan is gone," he said, referring to loans secured merely by the good name of the borrower and the instincts of the loan officer.
Instead, the company's two main banks, American Security and Maryland National, will be looking for small -- about $5 million -- projects secured with preleasing contracts or built to suit a major tenant.
"You're not going to see us do a lot of office [buildings] unless we are confident that the occupancy rates are going to be high," he said after the seminar.
Much of the company's real estate lending will be to medium-sized companies that find they have real estate needs and not to developers seeking tenants.
The company's best market for real estate now is northern Baltimore County, he said. "The toughest market for us . . . is downtown Baltimore." Baltimore's commercial vacancy rate climbed to 20 percent last year, the Coldwell Banker Commercial Real Estate Group reported in its year-end survey.