ByGlenda J. Wilson
|Lyn Haralson, left, and Amy Simpkins are working in the Little Rock zone.|
|Faith Weekly, left, and Lisa Locke will provide assistance in the Louisville zone.|
In case you haven't heard, the times they are a-changin' in the Fed's Eighth District. New people, new programs and a new emphasis on community outreach signal a shift in the focus of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis at its branches in Little Rock, Ark.; Louisville, Ky.; and Memphis, Tenn.
In all three zones its branches serve, the St. Louis Fed is working to build a broad “intellectual presence.” An expanded Community Affairs staff is doing its part by reaching out to an increasing number of community leaders. Even as this outreach is taking place, the “physical presence” of the Fed will be less obvious as it closes its buildings in Little Rock and Louisville and moves a streamlined staff into smaller quarters.
To understand what this all means, let's back up a little and talk about what precipitated these changes.
One of the Fed's main functions is processing commercial checks—approximately 15 billion to 20 billion a year. As electronic payments become increasingly popular with consumers, the demand for check processing is steadily falling, and studies predict the trend will continue for some time.
As a result, Reserve Banks throughout the country are reducing their check operations. By the end of 2006, the number of check processing sites will drop from 45 to 23. The St. Louis Fed was among the first to feel the crunch. Check operations in Little Rock and Louisville were shut down this summer and moved to the Memphis branch and the Cleveland Fed, respectively. Cash processing departments housed in Little Rock and Louisville also were closed. The buildings in both cities are being sold and the remaining staff moved.
With the main function of the Little Rock and Louisville branches now dispersed to other locations, the question for Eighth District officials was how to maintain a strong presence in those regions as well as the Memphis region.
One of the answers was an enhanced focus on community outreach.
To accomplish this goal, the branches are expanding outreach efforts and planning new programs. The Bank was a cosponsor of an International Urban Planning and Environment Association symposium in September in Louisville. A major conference on entrepreneurship and small business is scheduled next spring in Memphis. And a community development speaker series is under way in Little Rock. (See related story below.)
New staff have come on board in all three cities.
In Memphis, Dena Owens is working with Community Affairs Manager Ellen Eubank. Owens formerly was with Memphis Center City Commission. Their zone includes part of western Tennessee, part of eastern Arkansas and the northern half of Mississippi. Eubank can be reached at (901) 579-2421 and Owens at (901) 579-4103.
In Little Rock, Amy Simpkins and Community Affairs Specialist Lyn Haralson are working together to cover the majority of Arkansas. Simpkins, who comes to the Fed from Community Health Centers of Arkansas, has experience in nonprofit program management and community outreach. Haralson can be reached at (501) 324-8240 and Simpkins at (501) 324-8268.
In Louisville, Federal Reserve Bank employee Lisa Locke will return to the Community Affairs department after spending several years elsewhere in the Bank. She will join Community Affairs Specialist Faith Weekly. Their zone includes the western half of Kentucky and a portion of southern Indiana. They can be reached at (502) 568-9216.
The six Community Affairs specialists will not be alone in their work. Senior branch executives will play a stronger role in Community Affairs and will participate in an increasing number of outreach activities. Economic education coordinators also have been assigned to the three branches.
The Community Affairs Office has worked for about a quarter of a century to foster community development throughout the District. The office offers information on topics such as affordable housing, fair access to credit, small business and the Community Reinvestment Act. Community Affairs specialists conduct seminars, write articles and collaborate with other organizations on community development and financial education projects.
Most importantly, staff members are a link between lenders and community groups, providing advisory services and technical assistance on issues affecting low- and moderate-income individuals and communities.