Ponte Vedra equipment finance company expects continued growth

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The founder and CEO of Ponte Vedra Beach-based Navitas Credit Corp. said his goal is to grow the business into a billion-dollar equipment finance company and top 10 industry player in the United States.

“We’re almost halfway there,” said Gary Shivers, whose company has accumulated more than $400 million in assets since he established it in 2008. “All our existing divisions are growing at 15 to 20 percent per year on their own, and our growth rates are 25 or 30 percent per year.”

With its headquarters located in the Veranda Complex on A1A adjacent to Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Navitas is a non-bank finance firm that provides loans to small and medium-sized businesses to help them finance equipment and working capital.

The business has 140 total employees across its seven U.S. offices, with 40 based in Ponte Vedra. To support its growth, the firm plans to hire an additional 20 to 30 new employees in sales, credit analyst and administrative positions over the next year or so, 80 percent of which would be based in Ponte Vedra.

The company provides financing for businesses across the country, with several of its customers located in Northeast Florida. The firm’s clients come from multiple industries, including trucking and specialty vehicles, food services, healthcare, technology, software and automotive repair. The company is organized into seven different operating divisions that are targeted at different markets.

Shivers said the business’ value proposition is its ability to provide clients with quick access to capital and terms that are more flexible than those established by banks.

“We’re able to make our credit decisions and close our transactions in less than a day,” remarked Shivers. “Our customers can apply online, receive electronic documentation and consummate a loan.”

Shivers refers to his company as a “spread margin” business, meaning the company borrows money at one rate, lends at another rate and gains its profit based on the difference. He added that the firm raises money through accessing the capital and securitization markets and utilizing its bank credit facilities.

According to Shivers, the biggest challenge for Navitas currently is the rising interest rate environment. With rising rates, he said, the company’s borrowing costs go up, and they sometimes have to pass those costs onto customers, which can lead to the firm’s margins being squeezed. He added that when rates are increasing, however, the overall business environment is typically improving, which can also lead to increased demand for his company’s services.

Mike Santos, the president and CEO of ACI Communications Corp., has been working with Navitas for three to four years. His Jacksonville-based company sells data and voice networks to small and medium-sized businesses, many of which prefer to lease the equipment rather than pay for it up front in cash. As a result, Santos said Navitas provides his customers with an alternative in paying for equipment that can total tens of thousands of dollars. And, he added, the company doesn’t require his customers to place a down payment, which allows them to quickly install the equipment without initially spending a dime.

“They make it easy for customers to acquire and upgrade their technology,” Santos said.

Prior to founding Navitas, Shivers established and managed two similar financial services companies in New Jersey, with the most recent being Marlin Business Services. After accumulating a significant amount of stock with that company and cashing in a lucrative return, Shivers decided to move to Ponte Vedra, a place he had visited and loved. He was also interested in building another successful company, so Florida’s low taxes made the area an even more attractive destination.

Unfortunately, Navitas kicked off just a few months before the 2008 financial crisis, which Shivers said led to a few years of the company going “sideways.” Then in 2010, Navitas raised its first successful round of capital, and ever since, the business has experienced strong growth.

Navitas has historically grown organically, explained Shivers, as well as through acquisitions of smaller companies. The business is planning to expand its operations to the West Coast by either starting an operation there or acquiring a company in the region that could complement its existing portfolio of assets, he said.

Overall, Navitas has experienced sales growth (including its acquisitions) of more than 300 percent over the past three to four years, receiving recognition as one of the fastest-growing private firms in the country and largest financing companies in its sector.

“Cash is king and very important to a small business customer,” said Shivers. “We love to grow and grow our customer base and reward our investors.”

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