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October, 2018

Reinvesting in Communities

Kenneth Banks at Reinventing Our Communities Conference
Richmond Fed Director Kenneth R. Banks, president and chief financial officer for Banks Contracting Company, joins in on audience questions during a panel discussion on moving communities from poverty to prosperity.

The storytellers took their turns standing at podiums, sitting at discussion tables and walking about hallways where they continued conversations during the Reinventing Our Communities 2018 conference in Baltimore. Connecting Communities, Investing in Opportunity, was a collaboration involving many in Richmond Fed’s Community Development department.

Wes Moore, chief executive officer for Robin Hood and bestselling author, shares his inspirational story.

“Our job is not to make our organizations bigger but make the problem smaller,” said Wes Moore, chief executive officer of the nonprofit Robin Hood and bestselling author. To have the most impact in bringing about change, Moore said, we have to ask the right questions and solve the right problems. “The question isn’t, ‘how can we put in capital that is going to revolutionize.’ The question is, ‘how can we put in capital that can be leveraged.’”

Moore’s inspirational address detailed his childhood spent in poverty in Baltimore and in the Bronx, where abandonment and desperation became a lifestyle until a caring adult intervened and showed him a different way.  

“Wes Moore was a powerful speaker, reminding all of us of the end goal of our work,” said Julia Nelmark of Midwest Minnesota Community Development Corp. “The mental stimulation and inspiration to take back and reinvigorate our work is the key takeaway from this conference.” Nelmark was one of nearly 600 attendees of the conference co-sponsored by the Federal Reserve Banks of Philadelphia and Richmond, and Johns Hopkins University.

The three-day program focused on building and mobilizing financial, social, physical and human capital to move beyond poverty and achieve economic mobility. The approach, experts say, helps build wealth in a systematic way to create market opportunities and foster new, sustainable systems for transforming social systems.

In an interview with the Baltimore Sun, Philadelphia Fed President Patrick Harker explained the Fed’s interest and support. “In working with low- and moderate-income communities, we are helping them with our research and our ability to convene people, to come up with solutions for their communities,” said Harker, who spoke at the event. “Each community has to take on the challenges and opportunities they have in front of them.”

Richmond Fed President Tom Barkin speaks during the Reinventing Our Communities conference.

As proof of the power of this type of investment in communities, many attendees toured Baltimore neighborhoods where this investment approach has produced jobs and skills development, entrepreneurship, and affordable housing and community support networks. Some of the neighborhoods in East, West and Central Baltimore were featured in a conference video.

“I think the most important value that Bon Secours Community Support Center offers for this neighborhood is hope; another word we use is liberation,” said Talib Horne, executive director of Bon Secours Community Works. “We really focus on providing programs that help people reach their potential no matter what their barriers are … but we can’t do it alone.”

Richmond Fed President Tom Barkin delivered remarks titled “Crossing the Geographic Divide,” where he  cited education and workforce development as factors for improving long-term employment outcomes. “Better employment outcomes for many groups will help ensure our country’s future growth, as well as help address poverty and its associated ills,” he said.

The event was also well attended by members of our Community Investment Council and Board of Directors. Among the many conference programs were event-related programs held at city locations, such as our Baltimore Branch, which offered a workshop on The Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) and an example of community financing that focused on East Baltimore.

The powerful promise of learning from the knowledge bank of speakers and fellow attendees drew four of seven Newark, Delaware, council members to #Reinventing18. “I attended the Philly Fed’s 2012 conference and was wowed by the experts and sharing of information. I took that back to my colleagues and began promoting the idea that we attend as a group in the future,” said councilmember Jerry Clifton.

Clifton attended a break-out session on affordable housing. The issue, he said, is relevant to the factors driving up housing costs around the University of Delaware. “The students often come from areas like northern New Jersey and New York where the cost of living is much higher,” explained Clifton. “We’ve been advocating that the university’s employees buy homes around the campus where they can enjoy the walk to work and also stabilize costs."

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