Get this: Bank of the Ozarks is the country's largest construction lender

Posted July 21, 2018 12:06 p.m. EDT

This surprised me: Little ol' Bank of the Ozarks is the country's largest construction lender, loaning out more to the industry than financial heavyweights Wells Fargo and Bank of America.

That tidbit was part of a lengthy profile of the bank published earlier this month by Bloomberg Businessweek.

"Eighty percent of Ozarks' portfolio is in real estate, and half of that is in construction and land development, which is historically the riskiest sector and has led to a disproportionate share of bank failures," the article noted.

Arkansas-based Bank of the Ozarks bought St. Petersburg's C1 Bank in a $402.5 million deal that closed in 2016. Ozarks, which is being rebranded as BankOZK, has about $22 billion in assets, making it the 83rd-largest bank in the country.

It has lent money to projects all over the country, including in Miami and to the Related Group, which is redeveloping the former site of the Tampa Tribune along the Hillsborough River.

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In case you missed it, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is the richest person in modern history.

Earlier this week, his net worth surpassed $150 billion, which beat out Microsoft founder Bill Gates' inflation-adjusted record set in 1999. Gates has given away much of his fortune in recent years, though he still remains the world's second-richest person.

Bezos' wealth has grown more than $50 billion this year, putting him a little shy of the combined total for the Walton family of Walmart fame.

Just how much is $150 billion? It's just short of Nevada's annual economic output.

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Last month, when I wrote about lumber prices, they were around $535 per 1,000 board feet, down about $100 from record highs set in May. They have fallen further, reaching about $485 on Thursday, though that's still well above the average of about $290 over the past 20 years.

The high prices, driven by several factors including tariffs on Canadian lumber, bad weather and a trucking shortage, remain a drag on home building, said Michael Neal, a senior economist with the National Association of Home Builders.

"The concern over material costs, especially lumber, is making it more difficult to build homes at competitive price points, particularly for newcomers entering the housing market," Neal told the Mortgage Professional Association this week. "However, consumer demand for single-family housing continues to increase as the overall economy and labor market strengthen."

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If you're interested in the future of transit in the Tampa Bay area, join me at what should be a lively discussion this afternoon.

The Tampa Bay Transit Forum, at the Tampa Airport Marriott, is free and open to the public. State Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, will give the keynote speech, "A Vision for the Tampa Bay Region," shortly after 1 p.m.

Other speakers, including Florida Department of Transportation district secretary David Gwynn and transit-oriented development expert Marilee Utter, will talk about the area's current transit efforts and how best to go about building a plan to serve the entire region.

For more information, visit tampabaytransit­

Contact Graham Brink at Follow @GrahamBrink.