Craig Deaton is Entrepreneur of the Year

Craig Deaton was determined to start his own business, in his own way, back in 1983 when he founded Gateway Mortgage Corp.

“(Growing) was a real slow process,” he said.

Initially, Gateway was a correspondent with First Wisconsin and Guaranty banks working out of rented space in Kenosha.

But gradually, Gateway grew to a successful firm of 25 employees that originates Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and Ginnie Mae loans from a permanent location at 1202 60th St. in Kenosha. The company has about 2,700 customers and services $335 million in mortgages.

Deaton will receive the Kenosha County Entrepreneur of the Year award at the Kenosha County Business Excellence Awards presented by the Kenosha Area Business Alliance and the Kenosha Area Chamber of Commerce.

“We’re one of the small players in the game and we can really give customized service,” Deaton said. “Our goal was to always do the loans fast. We still do that.”

Gateway’s average loan approval time is five to 10 days, while consumers can wait months for larger originators to process applications.

While most of the company’s clients are in the Kenosha-Racine corridor, Gateway lends throughout the state and is working on getting a license to administer mortgages in Illinois.

Though he was losing business to other lenders who entered the subprime mortgage market, Deaton stuck to his original lending guidelines and today boasts a delinquency rate below one percent.

“The important thing is we didn’t change our underwriting standards,” he said. “We didn’t have any of the problems that some of the other lenders had.”

The repercussions of subprime lending have put some competitors out of business, which has been a benefit to Gateway.

The company continues to make gradual, conservative changes and stick to its principles, Deaton said.

“I try to hire real good people and I try to pay them as much as I possibly can,” he said. “We’re a service business. That’s what it’s all about.”

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