When it comes to your home or business, going green isn’t exactly cheap. Outfitting a standard roof with solar panels, for example, costs about $32,000. And until recently, finding a bank that specialized in loans for green projects was about as easy as single-handedly slowing global warming. Umpqua Bank loan specialist Dan Weldon wanted to change that.
In 2007 Weldon became one of only a handful of LEED-certified bankers in the country (and, it appears, the first in Portland), meaning he’s an expert in energy-efficient and environmentally sustainable buildings. “I deeply cherish our environment in the Pacific Northwest,” says Weldon, a banker with more than twenty years of experience. “LEED accreditation was one way in which I could communicate that to the public in a very straightforward way.”
LEED certification may warm Weldon’s conscience, but it also can net Umpqua Bank customers something a little cooler: cash. In November, Weldon helped launch the GreenStreet Lending initiative for the regional banking giant. The program reserves part of Umpqua’s lending budget to help small businesses and homeowners invest in renewable solutions. Few other banks in the country have similar programs: Pennsylvania’s AFC First Financial offers homeowners green loans, and, locally, ShoreBank Pacific lends to businesses for sustainable projects, but Umpqua is one of the first banks to offer the benefit both to individuals and small businesses. So far, it’s approved more than $300,000 in earth-friendly loans.
The GreenStreet initiative doesn’t make outfitting your bungalow or your business with solar panels any cheaper, of course, but Weldon’s expertise means he can more easily sniff out federal and state tax credits, utility rebates, and energy incentives. For example, when Foothills Honey Company beekeeper George Hansen wanted to put solar panels on his Molalla-area farm, Umpqua gave him the loan to do it and helped him earn about $80,000 back through tax credits—proving that green really is the color of money.