A syndicator’s perspective: Traveling in Indian Country

(Editor’s note: Phil Pavlovicz is the guest author of this post. Phil joined RBC Capital Markets in 2011 as a development risk manager. Prior to joining RBC, he held the position of assistant vice president – senior portfolio manager/construction at Capmark Capital, where he managed a team responsible for a portfolio of 500+ Low Income Housing Tax Credit assets for more than eight years. He has also worked as an environmental consulting engineer for two top 50 A&E firms: Arcadis and Malcolm Pirnie. Additionally, he spent seven years at a division of Marathon Petroleum as a regional environmental engineer and then as a construction program manager.)

As we traveled between the five scattered sites during our initial site visit for Spokane Homes 2, just northwest of Spokane, WA, our guide, the Spokane Housing Authority Development Director Clyde Abrahamson, said, “Turn right up here. I want to show you something.” I turned right, and we traveled up a dirt track through the pines and emerged on a high bluff overlooking the Spokane River gorge. The vista was just beautiful and has become an enduring image for me as I have traveled through Indian Country.

Working with Travois, RBC Capital Markets’ Tax Credit Equity Group (RBC) has syndicated tax credits on nine tribal housing projects. Our tribal focus team, John Galfione, Stephen Lee and myself, under the guidance of Craig Wagner, have been fortunate to be able to travel to many locales that we would not have otherwise visited.

There are a few lessons we have learned along the way:

a. Just because the hard crust overlaying the 4 feet of snow looks solid, doesn’t mean it will hold your weight.
b. Sometimes there are speed cameras or vigilant law enforcement officers in places you would least expect them.
c. Your Garmin can be completely wrong.

In the midst of these adventures, we have grown to appreciate the individual beauty that can be found in the far corners of Indian Country. From the endless plains in northeast Montana and central North Dakota, the bucolic landscapes in northern Wisconsin, the colorful deserts of Arizona, to the rugged mountain ranges in northwest Montana, each area has its own vivid personality.

Despite the varied landscapes, there is always one constant that does not vary from tribe to tribe — the care and dedication of the housing authority staff members we have met along the way.

It takes a lot of skill and perseverance to bring the necessary pieces to the closing table before the first building foundation can be poured. We can truly appreciate the effort of Travois staff in seeking to overcome obstacles and to devote themselves so fully to the mission of providing affordable housing where the need is greatest.

At RBC, we consider it a privilege to play a small part in the effort to provide quality housing where there such a great demand. We look forward to continued travels in Indian Country.