Notes from the Field: Southern Growth Forum in Louisiana
In May, I traveled to New Orleans for Inclusiv's first-ever Southern Growth Forum, where community development credit unions, banks, grantmakers, investors, technology providers, policymakers, and advocates gathered to share proven growth strategies that create economic and social impact and racial justice for people and place in the South.
Many national and local community development credit unions (CDCUs) attended, including 1st Choice Credit Union, ASI Federal Credit Union, Citizens Choice Federal Credit Union, Engage Federal Credit Union, Essential Federal Credit Union, Ferguson Federal Credit Union, Hope Credit Union, Local Government Federal Credit Union, Meritus Credit Union, Neighbors Federal Credit Union, Phenix Pride Federal Credit Union, Southern Teachers & Parents Federal Credit Union, andW.B.R.T Federal Credit Union. At the forum, credit union leaders had the opportunity to connect with stakeholders interested in increasing the breadth and depth of the grants and loans that they make to credit unions serving low-income individuals, families, and businesses in the region.
We kicked off the day with welcoming remarks from Bob Gallman, President/CEO of the Louisiana Credit Union League, which is committed to providing timely resources to its credit union members - both large and small - in the state of Louisiana. Afterwards, we held an impact panel that included local credit unions that are delivering best-in-class solutions to urban, suburban, and rural, underserved communities within their fields of membership. These included payday alternative loans, small business loans, and financial counseling and coaching among others. This group showed us that community-focused credit unions are more relevant now than ever.
We also had the honor of hearing from Representative Edmond Jordan, Democratic member of the Louisiana House of Representatives, who provided us with new insights into his legislative work to combat predatory lending throughout the state. This comes at a pivotal moment in state history as Rep. Jordan and credit union leaders have come together to introduce legislation to limit interest rates on payday loans to 36%, which is comparable to limits for our service members.
Later in the day, we held additional panels and discussions on innovative financing and how credit unions are increasingly using Inclusiv’s secondary capital program, as well as new market tax credits and opportunity zones, to serve their communities more deeply. In addition to hearing thelatest research on the power of community investment, we had an opportunity to hear directly from credit unions about the benefits of secondary capital – leveraged by growing CDCUs to expand safe and affordable lending to local communities – and how we can reduce barriers to access through our programs, products, and technical assistance.
At the forum, we also presented the Pathways to Financial Empowerment program’s work that we're doing with hyper-local credit unions to expand rural financial counseling and coaching. These services are often the main gateway to safe, affordable financial products, including auto loans, necessary for members living in rural communities to get to work. Participants also discussed financial empowerment initiatives in Atlanta, where our On the Rise Financial Center, in collaboration with local CDFI partners, promotes financial inclusion by providing residents of Atlanta's historic Westside with financial education classes, one-to-one financial coaching and access to affordable accounts and loans. The Center is also a flagship Pathways location.
With the generous support of Capital One and the Kresge Foundation, Inclusiv has a growing number of committed partners that are working hand-in-hand with us to provide solutions to the communities that need us the most. Together, we are hosting regional events, such as this forum, and investing capital, dispersing new technology, and more to expand financial inclusion and access in rural communities. For more information about Pathways and our work with Southern rural credit unions, please contact Ann Solomon at email@example.com. If you would like to learn more about Inclusiv secondary capital and our capital investing in the Southeastern United States, please contact Cathi Kim, Director of Inclusiv/Capital, at firstname.lastname@example.org.