A Marriage of Interest

 A Marriage of Interest One of the nation?s largest African-American-owned banks and a powerful, historic and active community church in Philadelphia have joined forced to reinvigorate a troubled area of the city of brotherly love.

At their jointly sponsored Empowerment Day conference in Philadelphia in October, United Bank of Philadelphia and the Bright Hope Baptist Church announced their collaborative effort to restore blighted portions of the once thriving cornerstone of North Philadelphia. United Bank President Evelyn Smalls said the church will spend more than $1 million of its own assets with the bank and will become an essential part of the city?s revitalization process. ?This is the kind of significant, reciprocal relationship that helps us grow with the community,? Smalls said. ?Churches are in a unique position to conduct business of this magnitude in terms of deposits and loan products.?

Kevin Johnson, Bright Hope?s senior pastor, said the church has already started investing in the North Philadelphia community by purchasing several properties. Last year, for example, it purchased the former Wannamker School and land to build apartments, a community center and job training facility. ?We have assessed the enormous financial challenges facing our community,? Rev. Johnson said. ?We will continue our century old tradition and reputation for civil and human rights activism and promote economic opportunity for out community.?

Given our society?s longstanding pattern of income and wealth disparity, United Bank of Philadelphia, the nations 24th largest Black-owned bank with assets of about $70 million as of Dec. 31, 2008, will continue to promote and foster entrepreneurship and small business development, Smalls said. To that end, she noted, UBP was one of an eight-bank consortium committed to providing $2 million to generate a pool of revolving loan funds for many minority and women business enterprises with existing contracts with the city. The funding is provided in conjunction with the city of Philadelphia?s Commerce Department?s highly touted Emerging Contractors Program.

Photo caption: Evelyn Smalls, president of the United Bank of Philadelphia and Kevin Johnson, Senior Pastor of the Bright Hope Baptist Church of Philadelphia.