United Community Bank has added a new specialized lending program to support the capital needs of the fast-growing craft beverage sector.

The lending “vertical” will offer U.S. Small Business Administration and Department of Agriculture loans nationwide to craft brewers and allied enterprises. Under those programs, the group can fund working capital, real estate purchases, construction loans, inventory, site improvements, equipment and installation. Financial services veteran Ken Jernigan oversees the craft beverage vertical.

“We see craft beer creating a completely new and different product category compared to industrial beer,” said Rich Bradshaw, president of specialized lending at Blairsville, Ga.-based United Community Bank.

Jernigan joined United with more than 25 years of experience in finance and marketing. He was a business development officer at Self Help Ventures Fund, where he developed SBA 504 loans in North Carolina. There, he concentrated on craft beverage finance, in addition to funding many large hospitality projects.

“Craft beer has become an engine for local economic development, and we look forward to supporting this growth,” Jernigan said. “When states liberalize beer distribution laws, especially related to on-premise sales directly to the consumer and self-distribution to retail outlets, we see a tremendous rise in the formation and expansion of craft brewers.”

Jernigan is based in North Carolina but will operate nationwide. Bradshaw is based in Greenville.

Previously, Jernigan served as CFO for a mid-sized aircraft manufacturing company and spent many years financing the North American aviation sector for a large international bank. He has additional experience as a private financial advisor, international banker and small-business owner.

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