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Haas Wilkerson Purchases Ownership stake in OA Finance

Wade Muller & Ryan Wilkerson Announce New Partnership

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Wade Muller of OA Finance and Ryan Wilkerson of Haas & Wilkerson Insurance recently announced a strategic partnership between their two companies.  Specifically, Haas & Wilkerson has taken an ownership position in OA Finance.  This partnership is the next step in a long-term business relationship between the two companies and a shared passion for the outdoor amusement business, Muller and Wilkerson are excited to assist their clients' growth in the industry. 

When asked about the history of the OA Finance and Haas & Wilkerson partnership, Wilkerson provided some background, “There's been a long partnership between OA and Haas & Wilkerson that goes back to Southern Leasing— the largest lender to the industry in the 1980s and early 90s that was based in Kansas City and for a time shared a building with Haas & Wilkerson,” he says. “We've had a great working relationship over time and throughout different iterations of the company.” 

How did ownership in OA Finance come about?  Wilkerson recalls meeting up with Muller to catch up and talk about struggles in the industry and challenges within their respective companies as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. “OA had a couple of investors who were looking for an exit strategy and Muller wanted to know if Haas and Wilkerson would take on a position with OA.  In essence, to formalize our longstanding friendship and working relationship in an ownership position,” says Wilkerson.  For Wilkerson, this was a no-brainer. “Our two companies have so much in common, not only our client base but also our values, morals, and the way we support our clients in their growth and future success,” he says.  

OA Finance and Haas & Wilkerson are very aligned in how they operate and are excited to have this commonality together. Conversations to formalize the partnership started mid pandemic and were finalized at the beginning of September. 

Muller brings a similar sentiment to Wilkerson's when asked about the budding partnership. “Our families, and companies, have worked together, but separately, for 30 some odd years.  Coming out of 2020, everybody made it through, and now we're looking at opportunities that allow us to move forward together because we've learned we're better together than apart. We can help partners from both sides grow and take advantage of exciting opportunities,” says Muller.

For both Wilkerson and Muller, the ultimate goal is to bring long term stability for OA Finance, and therefore, their customers. 2019 was a great year for many of their clients and 2021 has also been encouraging especially after a pause in 2020. “I believe that in the next 10 years there's a big opportunity for growth. Specifically, there's opportunity to grow with our customers as they go forward post pandemic.  We want to be the partner for our clients as they make acquisitions or go through business transitions. We can be a quick moving source for assistance in the financing and insurance world,” says Muller.

“We are both very committed to the amusement industry.  For OA, having Haas & Wilkerson as a partner gives the company long term financial strength, and opportunity to move into new segments of the amusement industry while growing the current segments in which they do business,” says Wilkerson. Ultimately, Haas & Wilkerson's ownership in OA Finance provides more stability for the customer base. “Having strong financial strength coming out of the pandemic is important.  We are all about looking forward not to just the next 3-5 years but rather wondering what does the next 10-20 years look like in the industry and preparing to help our clients through that,” says Wilkerson.

While the partnership is strong, Muller and Wilkerson are clear that OA Finance and Haas & Wilkerson will still operate as two separate companies.  Clients do not have to work with both in order to work with one. “We bring a large stable of expertise to our customers, but they don't have to work with both companies. We have complimentary expertise that we believe is beneficial to our clients,” says Muller.

“Haas & Wilkerson has always acted as a trusted advisor to our clients. Now, we're acting in a more collaborative way bringing in our friends from OA.  We are now able to work with our clients on multiple fronts— protecting our clients' businesses financially from a risk management standpoint and helping them grow and perpetuate from a capital standpoint,” says Wilkerson. The Haas & Wilkerson motto is “Insuring Your Success” and Wilkerson is clear that is still his company's attitude and OA Finance compliments that sentiment. 

When asked about the lack of financing availability in the outdoor amusement business throughout the last couple of years and the unprecedented stress on financing institutions as the pandemic shut down the industry, Muller described pride in his company's handling of these difficult situations. “The beginning of the pandemic was uncharted waters for a lot of people.  We had a plan approved by financial partners rolled out to our customers by April 1st, 2020. We helped all our customers survive those trying times,” says Muller. 

Starting in September/October of 2021, Muller recalls seeing an increased demand for ride financing as business rebounded. “We re-structured our capital, and we are ready and open for business,” says Muller.  Muller & Wilkerson are experiencing a busy trade show season. “We have plenty of capacity for both current customers and new customers.  We are ready to make loans and help operators grow their shows and take advantage of the opportunity they see to ensure their long-term success,” says Muller. 

“Lenders tightened capacity and controls on every financial company that works in amusement business due to the pandemic.  I'm optimistic OA and the other specialty finance companies will all emerge in a healthy place.  It is important for there to be a vibrant group of lenders and to have competition to have a healthy lending environment,” says Wilkerson. “Our clients had a great 2021 season which shows the banks that the business is bouncing back.  Banks don't understand the business.  We must educate the bankers and show positive results to gain trust and grow capacity. Our combined entities show a lot of financial clout and our long history in the amusement space also gives our bank a lot of confidence,” says Wilkerson. 

Wilkerson & Muller are looking forward to charging ahead in their newly formalized partnership. “The future is full of opportunity and our clients on both sides will benefit in the end,” says Muller. “We are bullish about the amusement business,” says Wilkerson.
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