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Keep Local Business Local?

Feature Story ...

Brooklyn, N.Y. -- Survey your neighborhood assets, pool your resources and throw it all in one pot. Be bold. Open your own credit union and keep the cash in the "'hood."

That's what the first minority-owned Federal Credit Union does. Here's how the Central Brooklyn Federal Credit Union (the "Hip Hop Bank") replaces redlining with greenlighting:

Reach out to the neighborhood -- retirees, artists, the local businesses -- and grow the money tree.

Teach the children what happens when money doesn't stay in your neighborhood. Show them how to build the saving habit.

Character counts; consider it when lending money. At the credit union, small loans are OK. Little steps lead to bigger ones -- and better money habits.

Don't forget anyone. Everyone handles money; everyone can be a shareholder.

Local Hero ...

Mark Winston Griffith

Brooklyn, N.Y.
Six-year veteran

Motto: Use what you know; just put a new spin on it.

Grif-Talk: "We are standing on the shoulders of people who have gone before us. We are an organic part of this community; we will prosper or we will die, just as this community will."

Contact ...

Brooklyn is blooming. Businesses are back and stronger. Your mother was right: Count your pennies and the dollars take care of themselves. Call today ... six tellers, no waiting.

Central Brooklyn Federal Credit Union
1205 Fulton Ave.
Brooklyn, NY 11216

How To ...

The Scottie Savings Game.

Saving is a good thing. At the "Hip Hop" bank they teach kids how to save with a game everyone can play.
  • Start small. Pinch every nickel and dime you can find.
  • Count the loot. Place in a tin, a sack, or a kilt pocket.
    (Have money, must travel.)
  • Find a friendly teller. Prepare to separate from your money.
  • Take the plunge. Fill out the paperwork for your $'s new temporary home.
  • Exchange your $. Get a passbook ... to the wonderful world of savings.
  • Keep score. Watch the count and the amount.
  • Amaze your friends and family. Teach them the Savings Game.
  • Feel good. And wealthy. (Pick up your "Get out of debt" card.)
  • Save more. Lose your fear of rainy days.
  • Make it a habit. Visit your tellers regularly. You may even get a lollipop.
  • Build your empire. Who knows how far your quarters can carry you!

Take the Healthy Neighborhood Economy Test

Survey the turf and see how you measure up:

  • Is there purchasing power in the area?
    If you're going to sell, you need people with money.

  • Is there local demand for goods and services?
    The closer the buyer, the more you can sell.

  • Do business owners live nearby? Do they visit the locale? The further the owner, the less the interest.

  • Are there jobs in the area?
    If folks can't earn, they can't spend.

  • Do the profits stay close by? Do owners reinvest locally?
    If money leaves, it seldom returns.

  • Do the local sources match up with the local needs?
    It's a money minuet. Make sure everyone is in step.

  • Is there opportunity and diversity?
    Everyone needs a chance. Just vary the options.

How did your neighborhood measure up? If you answered yes to five or more questions, you're doing OK. If not, start at the weak points. Grow your opportunities. Reinvigorate from within. Be aware of what happens when money leaves your neighborhood; it's hard to bring it back. Use your money to build a stronger neighborhood.

Tune In ...

Local interest at the Hip Hop

It's a familiar story. The residents of Bedford-Stuyvesant, a poor urban neighborhood in Brooklyn, N.Y., have had trouble getting home mortgages, college loans or seed money for businesses -- even though more than $600 million of their hard-earned dollars were on deposit in the city's banks.

That changed when two neighborhood activists, Mark Winston Griffith (see above) and Errol Louis started the Central Brooklyn Federal Credit Union, alias the "Hip Hop" Bank.

First, they did their research. A neighborhood survey revealed the size of Bed-Stuy's savings. Second, they took their homework to the "Bigs" -- big banks with branch offices in the neighborhood. Third, they came up with a win-win-win program: The two started a neighborhood credit union with the knowledge to judge risk and make the right loans. The banks bankrolled the credit union. One bank, which was closing its Bed-Stuy branch, sold the building to the credit union for $1.

The neighbors joined the union, providing more backing and creating new opportunity for everyone. "We are basically community activists from the hip-hop generation who decided it was time to resume the work of the civil rights and black power activists," Griffith explains. "We believe that building community-owned economic institutions is the final frontier."

In less than two years, the bank became a citywide success story. It has distributed more than $1 million in loans, with a near-perfect return rate. With 2.4 million in assets and 1,500 members, it continues to grow at the rate of 200 new members a month.

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