I’m a big advocate of small, locally-owned, initiatives and businesses. Maintaining local control of resources and services is the basis of growing healthy, safe, and just communities because it provides most effective way to mobilize neighborhood resources to solve the problems confronting those communities. We tend to think about local businesses in isolation, but the economic benefits are amplified for the community when the local economy is robust and diverse enough to keep dollars circulating in our cities and towns. Financial institutions play critical roles in promoting new business ventures and provide important services for their customers. When financial services are managed locally and deposits are reinvested in the community served, the banks become a capital sink that retains wealth in the local economy. Locally controlled financial institutions are a bit like Rain Gardens. They help the local economy soak up more of the dollars that rain down from customers and clients before they flow back to the rivers and the ocean. The watershed analogy stretches to the massive global corporations the advocate for dams and river diversion projects, sacrificing local economies for the benefit of the few large scale coffers consolidating a new feudal class. By supporting and enriching local communities we build resilience because these are better able to support our neighbors within the local economy. The Village Trust Financial Cooperative will catalyze the local economy on the North side by facilitating the key transactions that the conventional financial sector has developed to drain economic power from select communities, primarily those of color.  Efforts like the soon-to-be-chartered credit union at VTFC are the way to grow communities that have been historically excluded from the dominant economy and build resilience up from the community roots up.

When particular neighborhoods, towns, and communities are also targeted by the conventional, big corporation-run, financial services industry for exclusion and abusive profit-making, the community control afforded by small, neighborhood, institutions is essential to their survival and the well-being of the people living there. Tapping into the economic power of the black community on the North side of Minneapolis to bring needed financial services to the people is the idea driving the Village Trust Financial Cooperative. Created in response to the murder of Philando Castile, the Association for Black Economic Power has become VTFC and applied to establish a credit union over North. Founders, depositors, and supporters got together on June 9, 2018 to celebrate the progress over one year since naming the cooperative. Director of ABEP, Me’Lea Connelly updated us and reminded the crowd of the importance of Village Trust.

Astute readers of New Hughes understand that I have an affinity for amplification, especially of positive initiatives, in the society we share. Establishing the first financial institution in Minneapolis designed, organized, and run by people from the local Black Community since the 1970’s will retain and magnify the economic power of North Minneapolis to support the residents and enrich the neighborhoods. Member of the VTFC Executive Committee, Elaine Rasmussen, underscored the importance of Black-owned financial institutions such as Village Trust.

The team at VTFC has been hard at work preparing the recently submitted application for a charter to open a credit union by 2019. Village Trust did not need to wait for a charter to roll-out an alternative to the predatory “Pay Day” loans that are prevalent in the community. Jonathan Banks, VTFC Governing Body Chair, explained the New Day loan program and provided contact information to find out more and get a loan. True to the community-based mission of Village Trust, the loans come with financial advice and coaching to help frequent borrowers get off the short-term loan treadmill. New Day loans are already available.

Village Trust was founded as a community-led cooperative that works to catalyze solid ideas from people in the community with the Ambassador Program. Investors that would like to provide direct support for projects that most inspire them are invited to head a committee to get it done. Me’Lea Connelly outlined the program and invited people to the monthly Ambassador training sessions at VTFC. The Ambassador program is one more way VTFC has built amplifiers into its structure and business plan. By financially empowering community-led initiatives aimed at enhancing neighborhood institutions and groups, VTFC will facilitate the reinvestment of local capital into local endeavors to create good jobs where people already live, recreate, and relax.