Faculty discussant Bill Bynum, Towsley Policymaker in Residence, will focus on the role of policy to advance economic opportunity for disenfranchised populations. January 12, 2022.
Moderated by Stephanie Sanders, Ford School Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer.
0:00:28.7 Stephanie Sanders: Good afternoon. My name is Stephanie Sanders. The Ford School's Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer. And I'd like to welcome everyone to today's Policy Talks at the Ford School. Today's event is part of our Public Policy and institutional discrimination discussion series. Now in its fourth year, this series offers Ford School faculty, staff, students, and others in the university community, opportunities to hear from Ford School faculty who discuss important issues of US Public Policy. This series is designed to foster dialogue that contributes to the deeper understanding of ways in which discrimination manifests itself within institutions. To that end, today's discussion includes a closer look at economic empowerment and racial justice, in conversation with Bill Bynum. This event is also a part of our Towsley Foundation lecture series, and features Bill Bynum who is one of our Towsley Foundation Policymakers in residence this year. On behalf of the Ford School, thank you to the Towsley Foundation for their support, and thank you, Bill, for joining us today. Before we get started, a couple of quick notes about format, so we'll have some time towards the end for questions from the audience.
0:01:50.4 SS: We've received some questions in advance, but I also encourage you to submit questions or engage in dialogue in the live chat on YouTube, or tweet your questions to #policytalks. Now, I'd like to introduce today's faculty discussant. Bill Bynum began his career, his professional career, in North Carolina by helping to establish Self-Help, a pioneer in the development finance industry, and later, he built nationally recognized programs at the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center. In 1994, he moved to Mississippi to become founding CEO of Enterprise Corporation of the Delta, and in 1995, he organized Hope Community Credit Union. Today, Bill leads the family of HOPE organizations, and they include Hope Enterprise Corporation, Hope Credit Union, and Hope Policy Institute. All of these provide financial services that leverage private and public resources, engage in advocacy, and otherwise act as a catalyst to fulfill its mission of strengthening communities, building assets and improving lives throughout the Deep South. It also mitigates the extent to which factors such as race, gender, birthplace and wealth may limit one's ability to prosper.
0:03:13.6 SS: Since 1994, HOPE has generated over $3 billion in financing that has benefited more than two million people throughout Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee, all law-shaping policies and practices that have improved conditions in opportunity-starved communities nationwide. Bill has also served on many boards that include, but are certainly not limited to, the Aspen Institute, and the NAACP Legal & Education Defense Fund. He serves as an advisor to Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo, and E Pluribus Unum. He's a recipient of the Heinz Award, and he previously chaired the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Consumer Advisory Board, the Treasury Department Community Development Advisory Board, and served as a member of the Biden-Harris Presidential Transition Team. Bill is a Towsley Policymaker in residence, right here at the University of Michigan, at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. He's also an alumnus of the Henry Crown Fellowship, Emerson Collective Dial Fellowship, and the Salzburg Global Fellowship. Please join me in welcoming Bill Bynum.
0:04:27.3 Bill Bynum: Stephanie, thank you. It's an honor to be here, and I'm really excited to be a part of the Ford School family.
0:04:35.5 SS: Great.
0:04:35.8 BB: I always find it helpful to start by anchoring my work in the region where we serve. And so please bear with me as I walk through a few slides that hopefully help to accomplish this. What you see before you is a map of [0:04:56.6] ____ the Atlantic magazine, that shows where the slave population in the United States was concentrated prior to the Civil War. You can see as you would expect, much of that is across the South, including the region where I work today, which includes Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee. If you fast-forward to today, and you look at places in the United States where poverty is most entrenched and rooted, the US Government has a definition of persistent poverty, places, counties where poverty level has been over 20% for at least three decades in a row.
0:05:40.8 BB: These are places where poverty has exceeded 20% for half a century. 50s of these 50 years, and you see significant overlap in the prior map of where slaveholding was concentrated. And these maps of where you have the highest rates of unemployment, the worst education, health outcomes, where you have highest concentrations of predatory petty lenders and check cashers and sub-prime lenders, the fewest bank branches, and not coincidentally, where you have some of the highest concentrations of people of color. All these conditions that are in this darkest shades on the peripheral maps are places where those outcomes are worse than in other parts of this already significantly under-resourced and under-developed region. And so what we do at my organization, The Family Hope Organization, as Stephanie shared, we started as a loan fund back in the mid 90s with an objective of improving conditions in the region, by providing access to financial services.
0:06:56.0 BB: We were going to apply a market-driven strategy to a problem that has persisted in this region for a long time. And So we started by providing financing for entrepreneurs to help them provide good jobs, support good jobs that pay good wages and offered good benefits. But we soon found that jobs and businesses alone are not enough to support an economy that prospers. Businesses need climates that offer good homes and education, so you can track workers and managers. You need healthcare providers and all the things that people in more fluid, more economically mobile communities take for granted but were disproportionately not available in the deep south. And so we started by providing financial services. And that has grown over the years. The slide here shows where we are today. Actually, this data is about a year and a half, couple of years old. It precedes the pandemic. But on any course any day, we may serve households that house upto 100,000 people across the deep south.
0:08:09.3 BB: Almost half of our members didn't have a bank account, or were relying on predatory lenders. Prior to becoming a member of our credit union, almost 90% are people of color, more than half are women. And you can see where you have, again, the highest rates of unbanked and underbanked people in our region, and that disproportionately plays out in communities of color. And so we served in a very resource and financially underserved region. In addition to just providing access to basic banking services, when you look at the wealth gap in the United States, many of us are familiar with the fact that the gap is 10 to 13 to one black household versus white household. When you consider what one owns versus what they owe, the amount of wealth on a family's balance sheet. But that gap rises to 100 to one when you look at black families with children compared to White families with children. And clearly that is not sustainable. Two of the most important and effective ways to close the wealth gap is home ownership, which is still the primary asset on most Americans balance sheet.
0:09:30.3 BB: And business ownership, which while it doesn't close the gap, fully it trims it from 10 to 12 to one, to three to one. And so business ownership or home ownership is where we focus a lot of our attention. Again, you can see here, where some of the impact that we've had over the years, we've closed over 30,000 mortgages across our region. Most of those to people of color. You can see the percentage of people of color in the Deep South compared to our mortgage lending. Which In Mississippi, we did analysis the last year of mortgage lending by banks and credit unions that report data to the federal government. In Mississippi, 17% of all mortgages went black home buyers. This is in a state that's almost 40% black. And so we are working hard to close that gap as well as to ensure that women have more access to banking services. Women... Black women are denied at twice the rate for mortgages than white women across the country.
0:10:56.4 BB: As I said, we started as a business loan fund, we continued to be very active in closing business loans, when you look at the US government's primary program for closing capital gaps for underserved businesses, it's the Small Business Administrations 7 [a] guarantee loan program and less than 2%, I think it was 1.2% of all SBA loans in Arkansas went to entrepreneurs of color in a state that's 14-15% black. So we again, are very intentional about focusing our investments in underserved communities. You see that half of our loans go to entrepreneurs of color. Unfortunately, organizations like ours are rare and are shrinking. This slide shows where minority depository institutions owned by communities of color are a dying breed. Technically, since the great recession, you see that was 120 in 2013 and 40 fewer when we last captured this data in 2018. And the assets are much smaller. We're already smaller compared to non-black institutions prior to the recession, and those assets have shrank over the years.
0:12:32.7 BB: And so these vital institutions, what we like to consider as financial first responders in some of the most distressed communities are shrinking and are going away. A few other data points, as I mentioned, a higher percentage of our members did not have a banking relationship prior to Hope. There's very few things that you can do to climb the economical ladder that at some point doesn't require financial tools. We talk less and less about our mission in terms of providing financial services, but we talk about it in terms of opening opportunity, in opportunity starved places, and financial resources are one of our primary tools for doing this. And so we capture, are very intentional about capturing data, both to inform our work, but also to use in our advocacy efforts. No, again, we are... We know that the people in the region that we serve have less access to financial tools, almost 30% were reported having an income of our members less than $19,000. In any given day, the average and they have an account of Hope is less than $1,000.
0:13:54.5 BB: So these are very resource constrained people. That is why even as we have grown, we know that by ourselves, we are a drop in the bucket. So, we are very active in advocating for additional resources to support communities like ours, not just in the deep South, but across the country. This is a... This slide depicts several other advocacy organizations, partners, others who care about these issues that we work with, particularly over the since the onset of the pandemic to advocate for more investments in community development, financial institutions, minority financial institutions, to ensure that the federal resources that are being made available to get the economy and communities back on their feet, don't miss those who need it most, and to push back against some of the resistance to fair housing. But when we started this work, we thought that some of the doctrine that supported access, equal access to fair housing would, was settled. But we've seen in the past year and a half three of the largest banks in our region that have been fined for redlining in the Memphis area.
0:15:22.3 BB: So these fights must continue and the data that we provide and the advocacy that it fuels is a critical part of making sure that these issues don't go unaddressed. Another result of our advocacy program as I mentioned was writing loans to entrepreneurs during times of crisis. We did this after Hurricane Katrina, when more resources that have never gone into the deep south were going into communities, but they were missing some of the hardest hit communities. We did it after the financial crisis when its banks were closing at record numbers, I think 90% of all banks that closed over the decades following the great recession were in low income census tracts. We went from eight locations to 30 locations during that decade. So we ran to the fire to try to put it out. We also did this during the paycheck protection program in the, this was the federal program that was designed to provide recoverable grants, forgivable loans rather, to businesses that were closing as a result of the economic crisis that was spurred by the pandemic. Almost 40% of all black businesses closed at that time.
0:16:54.7 BB: And these many businesses are small and work small mom-and-pop businesses that while they may not be on the radar of the big banks, they are critical providers of jobs for in low income communities, particularly for people who may not have higher skills and higher education to help them acquire other jobs that pay better wages or benefits. But they both provide employment, but also provide critical services in these opportunities starved communities. And so in a normal year, we do 550 small business loans. Over the year, from April 2020 to April 2021. We closed 5000 paycheck protection loans, most of those small mom-and-pop businesses, very small loans. And that was critically important to serving these communities. But as important was our advocacy to work with Congress, to work with the administration, both the previous administration and continued with the Biden-Harris administration to advocate for supports for these sole proprietorships. And we were able to change the rules from the first round of the paycheck protection loan program to the second round when it was opened up and made available to organizations like Hope and other community development lenders across the country.
0:18:27.0 BB: We also advocated as I mentioned, for an increase in investments in these undercapitalized institutions. In a normal year, this Community Development Financial Institution program was started during the Clinton administration, in a normal year the budget is around $200 million in grants and investments in these organizations. The demand is up in three to four times that in terms of requests for these funds. So we advocated for Congress to significantly increase these investments. This resulted in $12 billion in commitments to invest in community development banks, credit union, loan funds, venture funds, micro business funds, and that was critically important. Data from our policy institute was included in the language that the House Financial Service Committee passed and ultimately the House passed and was included in the legislation that was ultimately passed by Congress and signed by President Trump in last December as a part of the CARES Act. And included in that $12 billion, $9 billion for equity investments in credit unions and banks. In capital starved regions like the one we serve, there's just not as much equity.
0:19:58.9 BB: And across the country, black banks are woefully under capitalized relative to their peers. Well, for credit unions, the regulator initially put forward rules that limited credit union's ability to get to take full advantage of the program. Banks were able to access these funds for at least 30 years or in perpetuity, in some cases, and an attorney at the national credit union administration, which is the FDIC for credit unions put forth guidance that said credit unions could only get it for 15, have access to these funds for 15 years. Well, we provided data that showed that two and a half million people would lose out in taking advantage of this program as a result of these rules. We pointed out that it was unfair to some of the most distressed communities, many of these communities of color, and then also was inconsistent with congressional intent. In an incredibly short time, NCAA changed their based on our advocacy, pulling together other advocates of color who cared and others who cared about these communities, and they turned around and they changed the rules. And now credit unions were able to take full advantage of that as a result.
0:21:33.2 BB: Last month, I had the honor of attending... It was a watershed event in my nearly four decades of doing this work at the cash room in the treasury department during the Freeman's bank forum is properly named after the bank that one of the first black banks in the United States history, this last president was Frederick Douglas. And during this forum, secretary Yellen and vice president Harris announced $8.7 billion investments in banks and credit unions across the country. Hope credit union was a recipient of 88 million dollars, an award that we can leverage 10 times, every dollar of capital on a bank balance sheet can be leveraged eight to 10 times. So that will get us to roughly another 8... Between $800-$900 million to invest in some of the most distressed communities in this country. It took us 14 years to grow from our startup to have 80 to 90 million dollars on our balance sheet. And in one day, we received the commitment of 88 million dollars from the federal government. That is a statement about the importance of policy advocacy.
0:22:51.4 BB: And it shows what can be done when you take the voices from these communities and collectively advocate for the kinds of investments that can make a difference. In addition to public policy and advocacy, one of the things that I think sets our work apart from many other organizations like ours across the country, is that we work very closely with the private sector to change their policies and practices. The image on the screen is one of our first borrowers, one of our first depositors in Itta Bena Mississippi, a small town in Mississippi Delta where 1500 people, Mississippi Valley State University is located at a very important historically back college in the heart of Mississippi Delta that educates leaders in that resource starved part of the country. But if you look at the demographics, it is, you can get a sense of this distress that exists there. Not only the education and income and banking access outcomes, but the energy of the power system grid of the community, the backup is a car battery, that indicates the woeful investments in infrastructure that exist in these communities.
0:24:21.7 BB: Ms. Fannie Dotson here was one of our first depositors and she made her first deposit ever in a federally insured depository with money she received on her 100th birthday in Hope credit union. After we took over the bank branch that had to close after the financial crisis. So we are... We partner with one of the largest banks in the region to take that over instead of close it, we converted into a credit union branch, and we're now serving that community with the kind of tools that others take for granted. In addition to banks, we have worked hard to import capital into these communities. It's not exactly reparations, but it is repairing these communities, when you look at Itta Bena, we have had more than half of the deposits in that community, but if we had every deposit that was available, it would only be one in a quarter million dollars roughly, hardly enough to support jobs, businesses, education, investments, housing, and other infrastructure that is vital to a community's prosperity.
0:25:34.6 BB: And so what we've done is work to import capital and what we call transformational deposits. Netflix last March reached out to us when they, one of the leaders of Netflix had read the color of money and felt that it would be important for Netflix to use some of its cash holdings and deposit it in minority depositories. I knew some of the, uh, people at Netflix, they knew Hopes work, and we were the first to receive a deposit, it was a $10 million deposit that was at 10 basis points. Which is roughly what banks pay for checking and savings, but we were forced, prior to the transformation of deposits, to import capital in very expensive CDs and Money Markets that cost more and came from people looking for high rates because we didn't have access to the very low-cost deposits in these communities. Netflix lit a fire and before long, we had deposits from PayPal, Thermo Fisher, Dick's Sporting Goods, [0:26:54.5] ____ Sciences, Nike has recently made a deposit, $10 million deposit in our Credit Union.
0:27:02.1 BB: We've raised over $100 million over the past year in low-cost deposits that allow us to finance, that we use to finance homes, businesses, alternative to payday lenders in some of the most distressed communities across the country. And with just a reference to the box at the top, an effort that we call the Deep South Economic Mobility Collaborative. We partnered with seven cities, Birmingham, Montgomery in Alabama, New Orleans and Baton Rouge in Louisiana, Jackson, Mississippi, Memphis, Tennessee, and Little Rock, Arkansas, and historically black colleges and universities in each of those areas to initially identify some of those 5000 entrepreneurs that need paycheck protection loans that couldn't get it from other banks. Goldman Sachs provided a credit facility that helped us to make those 5000 loans and file a $140 million into entrepreneurs to stabilize them and get them on the... Help them get on the other side of the crisis. We're continuing those partnerships to now try to ensure that of the trillions of dollars that are going into the economy, they don't widen the gaps that we saw after Hurricane Katrina and after the economic... After the Great Recession.
0:28:34.4 BB: Often those investments go in the hands of people who have always been at the front of the door, front of the line, and don't reach the hardest hit communities. With the resources that we've been able to secure from the federal government, with some of the partnerships that we now have in place and the partner... Including partnerships with anchor institutions, HBCUs are often located in economically distressed communities. The cities that I mentioned have black mayors for the most part, and they all have a vested interest in making sure that their economies are able to benefit from the trillions of dollars that are coming in, and some of those resources go to support, strengthening the water system here in Jackson, which is comparable to Flint, Michigan, to supporting green developments, affordable housing, and opening up doors of opportunity for communities that need it most. So you can take the PowerPoint down and I hope that gives you a sense of some of the things that are keeping us busy and some of the opportunities that are on the horizon.
0:29:44.5 SS: Thanks, Bill, so much for sharing your thoughts on economic empowerment and by describing in great detail the work being done within the Hope organization, I had no idea. I've watched a couple of your videos and talks you've done in other organizations, but I had no idea of all of the work that went on to make sure that people are empowered and have opportunity for upward social mobility. At this time, I'd like to encourage attendees to, again, to engage in the dialogue in the Live Chat, also on YouTube, or you can tweet your questions to #policytalks. We did receive a few questions, and I'd like to start by asking the first question, so the first question is, "In your opinion, what is at the root of stigmatic mistreatment against disenfranchised populations that keep such behaviors alive?"
0:30:45.1 BB: That's a tough one. I was actually a psych major and it's still hard for me to get my arms around that. I think that there's a perception of limited resources and that it's a zero-sum game, and some of my psych experience, in demonstrations and lectures, suggested that when resources are scarce, people align with people who they can most relate to. And one of the first things that people relate to and you can see, is skin color, and it's unfortunate because certainly, people in Appalachia and who are suffering from extraction in that region, have more in common with people in the Mississippi Delta, black folks in the Mississippi Delta and in Alabama Black Belt, than they do with white people in wealthy communities.
0:31:48.6 BB: And so I think if we could get people to engage and vote in their own self-interest, rather than from a position of fear and scarcity, I think we'd see very different outcomes, but there's so much of the narrative that pits people against each other, and it's either, if you win I lose and I think that's not serving anyone well and in a nation that is becoming increasingly diverse, I think it probably perpetuates more anxiety and that is unfortunate, but I think some of those is just un-based fear, and that's perpetuated by some of the political narrative, people trying to hold on to positions in power and resources, unfortunately, fuel some of what we see.
0:32:51.2 SS: As a follow-up to that question, this series really looks at discrimination and how it shows up in institutions, and the next question is, how can legal advocacy... You talked quite a bit about advocacy, so how can legal advocacy play a role in supporting economic and racial justice?
0:33:12.7 BB: It is critical, you noted earlier that I'm fortunate to serve on the board of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Interestingly, I was going to go to law school and try to be the next Thurgood Marshall or follow in his footsteps, but I got sidetracked by this economic justice work, which has kept me busy. I haven't made it back to law school yet, but I... Serving on the Legal Defense Fund is important. One of the things that Thurgood Marshall emphasized in the creation of LDF was economic opportunity, not just legal when you need the court to back you up, that's important, and... But I've also... One of the reasons I did not go back to law school is that I saw in the mid-80s a lot of doctrine that again, I thought was settled, being challenged by the courts and felt that economic resources could be more durable and sustaining. But you also have to fight on all fronts. One of the projects where that plays out in our region is a housing development in the heart of Mississippi Delta in a community called Moorhead.
0:34:34.6 BB: It's one of the communities where we took over a bank branch that closed after the financial crisis, and I went to meet with the mayor, and he asked me to get in his pick-up truck, and he drove me around the town, and he took me literally on the other side of the tracks to a community that had been built in the 70s to bring the workers out of the country, rural areas, closer to the town, so that they would be more accessible to the plants and to the businesses. But it was intentionally built outside of the town limits so that they could not vote in the municipal elections, and so the mayor said, that it was anything that we could do to help improve conditions in that community, which was an affordable housing development. It had been built in the 70s, and the... Was built with poor construction, poor wiring, infrastructure. There was standing sewage in the streets, pot holes, cracks in the sidewalks, and so we actually were able to work with Goldman Sachs and others to get some investment into that community, relatively small amount, and there were about 50 to 60 homes there.
0:35:51.1 BB: We had [0:35:51.2] ____ with the residents, ask them what they wanted in the design. Back to legal part, the developer of those homes was sued because of the poor construction and the fact that people have been harmed. Actually, some people had died in electrical fires as a result, and so he was sued, and the properties were turned over to the residents, but now they own terrible properties and didn't have the resources to develop them. So when we were able to take over the branch and raise some resources, we have now renovated those homes, but for the legal challenge, they would not own the home, but the University of Mississippi's legal law center actually led the lawsuit and was able to get the ball rolling to turn that community around. But it took a collective effort. You need to couple legal advocacy and investment and other... These communities need everything that anyone in any other communities need, and sometimes it takes legal advocacy to get it across the finish line.
0:37:13.6 SS: Bill, you talked earlier about how your organization has grown over time, over I think for maybe 14 years to where it is today, so can you talk a little bit about strategically, how you have continued to build your advocacy work in ways that have really led to the significant changes that you talked about, and you mentioned throughout your presentation? How have you continued to build on that advocacy work and get the whole thing out there?
0:37:44.0 BB: It actually has been... We've been at this since '94, so about 27 going on 28 years now. The first... It took us 14 to get to 90 million, which we were able to get in one day, 80 million, 90 million in one day recently, because of advocacy, and the advocacy is fueled in a couple of ways. I think first and foremost, it's fueled by a policy team, which takes data from our members, from our experiences, and uses that to get in front of public officials, the state, the local, and the federal level, been more effective at the federal level given the history of the local environment here in the deep south, but we take data and show what kind of return on investment can be realized. Now what can be happen when you help people become home owners, how it benefits everyone and not just some. And so we are very focused on bringing real world data to bear to policy makers, to businesses, to help inform and shape their practices.
0:39:00.6 BB: We also have been fortunate to have the support of others who care about this work, who are very influential. I was hired by... The board that hired me included the chairman of Walmart, Sam Walton's son, the head of the largest electric utility in this region, as well as a former governor and advocates who work... And grassroots advocates who work in the Mississippi Delta, and so they brought their credibility to bear, they open doors, they brought their peers to the table for conversations that I could not have had independently, and collectively, we've been able to convince people that these investments are in their best interest. There's a lot more to be done, but I do think that anchoring it in the realities of the communities has been critical to our success, as well as finding like-minded allies who care about these issues.
0:40:06.2 SS: The next question comes from Twitter, and Chelsea says that she's worked in Local Economic Development during the first year of COVID-19, and she helps small businesses access emergency capital. One challenge that minority owned businesses face was not having the business documents like the P&L, et cetera, needed to apply for the PPP and also other funds. Was this an issue in your experience? Was this an issue and how did you assist with that?
0:40:40.5 BB: It certainly has been an issue. It was an issue before PPP. And one of the things that confront us often is a business' ability to provide the data we need to make good decisions. And for the federal paycheck protection program, that not having documentation was not an option. And so we engage local business assistance organizations who were close to these communities and would roll their sleeves and hand-hold their hands to go back and collect the data. These businesses, they're not... They're not lazy, they're not poor, they're not dumb. They just are resource constrained. And so when you're... They do more with less than anyone that I know. So they're incredibly entrepreneurial. But you have to prioritize where you put your time and resources.
0:41:40.9 BB: And so many of them are invisible and operate under the radar and are cash businesses, and so had to take the time to help them pull the data together. And fortunately, we've had advocates, I mean, again, technical assistance partners who did that. We've never been under the illusion that what we do is all that's needed. And so we've been very intentional about collaborating with others who provide other critical pieces of the puzzle. And together, we've been able to help businesses, help homeowners, help families get to a better position.
0:42:20.7 SS: So this next question comes from Eric Clyburn. So Eric mentions... You mentioned the importance of anchor institution. So what are some initiatives you would like to see colleges and universities pursue to promote economic empowerment and reduce the racial wealth gap?
0:42:41.5 BB: I think it's not just applicable for historically black colleges, but across institutions. You've got incredible expertise, we buy, we contract with, we have all kinds of vendor and purchasing relationships. I think being intentional about making sure that you do business with diverse entrepreneurs, with diverse suppliers and contractors. That is certainly, I think, low hanging fruit. It is... Maybe you don't go to Church or you're not in the country club or live in the same neighborhood as these business owners. So it may take a little extra effort. But there are businesses that are out there that can provide high quality services and products and services. And if we're going to close these gaps, we're going to have to be intentional about broadening the universe of our relationships and doing business with hiring people who understand these markets. I also think another thing that we can do is look at who are decision makers in our institutions. Often the C-suites are not very diverse racial or gender wise.
0:44:15.9 BB: I'm really glad Michigan is taking these issues seriously, but more institutions need to do that. But again, back to work with HBCUs. When you look at the communities where they're located, they're going to need all sorts of investments. The infrastructure is often crumbling. They need health care facilities. They need service businesses, restaurants, all the things that, again, communities that thrive have and that need capital. And so partnering with these institutions to identify some of the investments that can move the needle on improving infrastructure. Often those are housing for faculty and student housing in these communities. So we're partnering on some of those initiatives. But again, there's nothing that a thriving community needs that these underserved communities don't also need, but they lack the resources. But I think these institutions, colleges particularly, are looked to not just for advice, but to also fuel the economy of the neighborhoods where they're located. And so we're being very intentional about trying to find ways to partner to leverage their important positioning.
0:45:48.5 SS: Absolutely. So in our final question, this question is from Paige. So she wants to know, and I'm curious as well, what are Hope's next goals for the near future? Are there any new programs, initiatives that Hope is planning to develop?
0:46:07.8 BB: That is interesting. We're excited about the position that we find ourselves in. We'll soon... We started as a million and a half dollar loan fund with the Enterprise Corporation. The Credit Union was a project in Church to try to provide an alternative to payday lending. And probably towards the end of this year, we'll have over a billion dollars in assets. Small relative to need but there's a lot that we can do with that. We want to go deeper in the communities that we serve. There's a lot unmet need and opportunity that I think we can help fuel. We'll be looking to try to take advantage of technology. We're kind of a high touch entity, but we also need to be high tech.
0:47:01.6 BB: We rely on data. We rely on... More people in communities of color have smartphones compared to their non black peers, but unfortunately, they don't have banking relationships. But that gives us an opportunity to serve people through virtually, through online and through their smartphones. And so we'll be looking to amp up our technological capabilities and go deeper that way, but also really expand our partnerships. We've got more HBCUs per capita in this region than any other part of the country. There's a lot of faith-based organizations, nonprofits that are itching to help improve conditions in their communities. So I don't think there'll be a shortage of opportunities. It's just a matter of how we prioritize and make the most of it.
0:48:01.2 SS: Well, that's all the time that we have to do. I'd like to first ask you, do you have any closing remarks? And then I'll say something to close us out.
0:48:11.2 BB: No. I think, as I said earlier, I'm really thrilled to be part of the Ford School family. I've gained a great deal in my class last year, learning and being inspired by the students. I hope that we can import some of that energy and maybe we'll see a few Ford school alumni come to the deep South and help us take this work to the next level. So again, just look forward to building on our relationship.
0:48:45.4 SS: Well, in closing I'd like to thank you, Bill, for being our faculty discussant and also you're a Towsley Policy Maker in Residence. Thank you so much for talking with us today about economic empowerment and racial justice and we are indeed fortunate to have you be part of the Ford school family. I'd like to thank all of the attendees for joining us for today's event. The next installment of the public policy and institutional discrimination discussion series is February the 10th with the Associate Professor of Public Policy Ann Lin. And the focus of this discussion will be on immigration reform and racial justice. So this ends today's events. Thank you all so much for attending.
0:49:30.2 BB: Thank you.