Kansas City Fed’s Unique Role in Community Development

December 23, 2016
By Jeremy Hegle , Senior Community Development Advisor


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From rural communities to urban neighborhoods, the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City believes a strong economy should foster growth and opportunity for individuals at all levels. To support this belief, the Kansas City Fed actively promotes community development and fair and impartial access to financial products.

The community development efforts of the Kansas City Fed focus on five strategic areas: community development investments, consumer financial stability, neighborhood stabilization and housing, small business development and workforce development. By blending research, relationship-building and resources in each of these focus areas, the Kansas City Fed provides a unique perspective on the needs of low-to moderate-income (LMI) populations. The following examples highlight this work.

  1. Research and Analysis

    Community development research at the Kansas City Fed examines challenging issues that affect economic prospects in LMI communities. Recent research has examined student loan debt and delinquency, subprime auto lending and the affordability of rental housing.

    Two ongoing research reports are published twice per year:

    • The Tenth District Consumer Credit Report is a snapshot of the credit condition of a typical consumer in the Tenth District, as well as within each district state. Each issue also examines a special topic, such as a recent look at the composition of consumer debt.
    • The Tenth District LMI Economic Conditions Report provides insights from the LMI Survey, which tracks the demand for social and community development services, job availability in LMI communities, affordable housing and access to credit. Findings are supported with analysis of external data.

    These research papers and reports serve local partners and are disseminated throughout the Federal Reserve System, providing Fed policymakers with regional insights.

  2. Relationship-Building

    The role of the community development team at the Kansas City Fed has grown in the 35 years since Community Affairs departments were established in the Reserve Banks. Initially, the department’s singular mission was to help banks understand their responsibilities and opportunities under the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), which encourages banks to meet the credit needs of their communities, including LMI neighborhoods. Over time, the Kansas City Fed has forged relationships with community organizations, government agencies and foundations serving LMI populations to significantly expand the Kansas City Fed’s community development role.

    The Oklahoma City Branch’s collaboration with the Oklahoma Coalition for Affordable Housing is one example. Information gathered through on-going meetings is used to identify emerging needs, connect stakeholders and advise financial institutions, community organizations and policymakers on promising practices that promote economic security in underserved communities.

    The Kansas City Fed also recently partnered with the Greater Kansas City Local Investment Support Corporation and the United Way of Greater Kansas City on a year-long initiative to increase the financial knowledge of social service professionals. The Financial Health campaign trained more than 120 social service professionals on resources and methods to help clients work through their short-term and long-term financial issues.

  3. Resource Development

    A third aspect of the Kansas City Fed’s community development commitment is the development of timely resources, programs and national conferences. Select examples include:

    • CRA OneSource: A comprehensive collection of CRA resources, including mapping and search tools, community development guides and webinars.
    • Grow Your Own: An emerging model of economic development that focuses on using entrepreneurship and small business development as a primary economic development strategy. This series includes a Funder’s Guide, e-book, webinar and more.
    • Investment Connection: An online platform and in-person forums that connect CRA officers and foundations with CRA-eligible funding opportunities. Since launching in 2011, more than $27 million has been invested in community development organizations through Investment Connection.
    • Putting Your Paycheck to Work: A series of materials designed to help employees understand and make the most of their paychecks. Topics include understanding tax withholding and other deductions and setting up direct deposit. The materials are designed for both employers and educators.
    • Transforming U.S. Workforce Development Policies for the 21st Century: Produced in partnership with the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta and the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University, this book explores how new policies and practices can meet the changing needs of workers, businesses and their communities.
    • Exploring Financial Mobility and Resiliency in Low- and Moderate-income Communities: The most recent national community development conference took a fresh look at prominent issues that affect the financial wellness of LMI communities, including health, housing, jobs, education and consumer finance. Video and speaker presentations can be accessed here.

Staying Informed: The Community Development Advisory Council

In 2001, the Kansas City Fed formed the Community Development Advisory Council (CDAC) to gain additional insight on the needs across the district. Council members are community, business and labor leaders from urban and rural communities. The CDAC meets with Bank President and CEO Esther George along with members of the Kansas City Fed’s community development team. The CDAC’s year-round perspective helps shape the Kansas City Fed’s community development research and resource development.

Adapting to Changing Times

As the community’s needs evolve, so must the Kansas City Fed’s role in community development. To broaden our reach, the Kansas City Fed recently launched a strategic stakeholder engagement initiative. The initiatve seeks to strengthen relationships and increase awareness with women, minority and emerging bank leaders as well as community and labor leaders. As part of this initiative, in September 2016 the bank hosted the first Forum for Minority Bankers, designed to provide emerging minority bank leaders with industry and leadership development knowledge. The forum attracted participants from 11 states and the District of Columbia.

Looking Ahead

With more than 35 years’ experience addressing the distinctive needs of its local markets, the Kansas City Fed’s role in community development and stakeholder engagement has become an integral part of the community. This effort also helps keep the Federal Reserve’s leadership focused on what is happening across the nation’s diverse geographic regions, stretching far beyond Washington, D.C., and Wall Street to Main Street.