Kevin Wilson, our Rotary of Atlanta West End program director for August, first thanked Myrna Fuller for arranging for our speaker. Kevin then presented Mr. George Andrews, renown pioneer and forward thinking banker. Mr. Andrews as the People's Banker lives a very deep concern for fairness and social, human, educational and economic justice for all people. He views the West End as a place different today from when he opened Capitol City Bank & Trust Company in 1994. Huge changes have come to the West End, formerly as a neglected community, red-lined and suffering from the forces of neglect, some poverty and unfair economic decisions. Today, George notes that gentrification is a reality in the West End, bringing with it benefits of new construction, more businesses, and some economic prosperity spread unevenly throughout the West End. West End risks losing some of its treasures, mainly in people who may be forced out of the West End owing to sky rocketing property values. But George foresaw the potential in the West End, which drove him to bring his version of community banking to the community. He likes the general demographics and potential for diversity in income. Capitol City Bank thrived but then failed during the Great Recession. The reason: Capital City Bank was excluded from the huge bailouts set up to offer cash reserves and operating cash to all banks in 2008 and 2009 by the federal government through the federal Troubled Asset Relief Program – TARP. The accelerated growth of the West End, George says is due, without question, to the Atlanta Beltline. Along White Street there are many opportunities with property values up and attractive new retail and dining establishments – actually occurring throughout the West End. George believes the West End will be a place for everyone with reasonable financial means; the area clearly is attracting middle and upper income residents who desire the growing amenities and the proximity to downtown Atlanta. He is concerned, however, about lower income residents, to whom he’s also committed. George also noted the enormous impact that the Black Lives Matter and the murder of George Floyd have had on corporate America. George made a number of other observations.
- Black churches do not get loans. They and other churches are not certain that post CIVID-19 those who became used to online services will come back to the brick-and-mortar buildings. Further, churches are suffering with no way to collect cash via collections. There are no plates being passed for this money.
- Most small businesses are undercapitalized. There are a large numbers of important community businesses employing 2-5 people that do not possess significant financial sophistication. Elected officials must ensure medium and small businesses lacking sophistication but still viable are able to access government programs that provide capital. These businesses cannot survive the scrutiny required by bigger banks to get capital.
Unity Bank, which George is bringing to Atlanta, can provide services to these customers. There are a large number of unbanked businesses using credit cards. Unity can serve them. West End will benefit from Unity Bank and the working relationship it is building with the Small Business Administration. Invest Atlanta, the City of Atlanta’s economic development arm, has $7M available for small loans of <$40K, and has made qualifying for these loans much simpler.