Hurricane Harvey brought the worst rainstorm ever recorded to Houston, but its fast-growing population and booming economy suggest that the city will rebound. Natural disasters bring terrible tragedy, but also unprecedented opportunities to recast urban infrastructure and economies in more resilient, sustainable, and inclusive ways. Houston can use its rebuilding to address the growing gap between rich and poor and bolster its declining middle class.
Pitch Black, Portland’s annual event for black entrepreneurs looking to launch their small businesses ideas, took place this past week. Albina Community Bank was among the sponsors. The four winners, selected from a pool of ten speakers who had five minutes each to pitch their ideas to a live audience, were all women. The first-place winner pitched a company that makes videos of inexpensive, DIY science projects for parents and kids. Her goal is to encourage children of color to explore the STEM fields.
U.S. Representative Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-AL) recently joined United Bank in support of the American Bankers Association Take Your Lawmaker To Work Day. Bank personnel and members of the Board of Directors hosted the Congressman in their business incubator, where they discussed regulatory reform, CDFI-related initiatives, and the unique role community banks play in building a strong economy. They addressed how community banks are doing their part to stimulate economic development, grow small businesses, and create jobs in his district.
Last week, the Mississippi Bankers Association hosted the well-attended 2017 Southern States CDFI Conference in Jackson. 15 CDBA member banks were among the 24 regional banks in attendance. At the event, CDBA CEO Jeannine Jacokes provided an update on CDFI policy questions. Other speakers discussed how to make the most of a CDFI certification and how to understand New Market Tax Credits in the context of rural southern banks.
Thanks to a $2.25 million loan from Virginia Community Capital, Seven Hills Food Company will be expanding its Lynchburg plant and increasing its staff. Seven Hills is a 2-year-old wholesaler of pastured, Virginia family farm-raised Angus beef. The plant connects local meat producers to local meat consumers. “The meat trade is dying as it’s being consolidated, so we’re creating a place for people who are interested in advancing in the meat-cutting trade and… creating more access for restaurants who have been limited in their ability to purchase because of the lack of availability,” said owner Ryan Ford. “This [loan] will allow us to continue growing our business to achieve our goal.”
First Independence Bank is one of five funders for the newly-announced Fourth Street Ecohomes Project in midtown Detroit as part of the Selden Corridor Initiative, a mixed-use redevelopment that will create new housing, job opportunities, and businesses in the area. The Ecohomes will boast innovative sustainable technologies such as rooftop solar panels, solar thermal hot water heating systems, energy-efficient thermal envelopes, sustainable landscaping, and rain barrels. Fourteen units are currently underway.
Black Wall Street, a nonprofit dedicated to increasing the number of minority and underserved entrepreneurs who successfully grow scalable businesses in Durham, North Carolina, just announced the return of its signature event, Black Wall Street: Homecoming. Mechanics and Farmers Bank is among the sponsors of this event. “This will be a powerful and impactful week for black founders -- and what better place than Durham, where history shows what we can build and where diversity isn’t just talked about, but celebrated,” said Jesica Averhart, BWS co-founder.
The First Southwest Community Fund, a nonprofit supported by First Southwest Bank, was recently one of three awardees to receive funds through the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) to create a revolving loan fund. In 2017, First Southwest Community Fund received $400,000 for this loan fund, and assuming the state legislature allocates funding next year, in 2018 First Southwest Community Fund will receive an additional $100,000.
The CDFI Fund has announced $18.6 million in 2016 Bank Enterprise Award grants to mission-focused banks for their service in distressed communities. With limited resources, the BEA program provided grants to a record-breaking 102 banks and thrifts headquartered in 22 states and the District of Columbia. The highest proportions went to rural Mississippi and Louisiana. 92% of the money was awarded to 86 CDFI-certified banks.
The CDFI Fund announced $18.6 million in 2016 Bank Enterprise Award grants to mission-focused banks for their service in high poverty communities. This Fund – which yields an enormously high impact with a near-negligible proportion of the federal budget – is under threat in the immediate years to come.