The opening plenary for the 2019 OFN Conference focused on how senior policymakers have interacted with our industry through their careers. Hosted by Maurice Jones, President & CEO of LISC, the session featured Mike Espy, former Secretary of USDA; Anne Hazlett, Senior Advisor for Rural Affairs, Office of National Drug Control Policy; Martin Gruenberg, Board of Governors and former Chairman, FDIC; and Jovita Carranza, Treasurer of the United States.
Each of the speakers sat with Maurice Jones, who asked them to relate a time or place where community development finance in some way informed their own work. Mike Espy reflected on how CDFIs helped the Gulf region recover from the devastating impact of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, as well as the historic day in 1994 when the Riegle Community Development and Regulatory Improvement Act creating the CDFI Fund passed the House by 410 votes and the Senate with no dissenters. As the then-Secretary of Agriculture, he witnessed the signing of the historic bill by President Bill Clinton later that same year.
Anne Hazlett recalled the story of Portsmouth, OH, a rural town that has been hit particularly hard by the opioid epidemic, as documented in the book Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic by Sam Quinones. When she visited that community, she was inspired by how its leaders and CDFIs have come together to unify the community in the face of the crisis and get needed services to families in need.
Martin Gruenberg was proud to share his recollections of growing up as the child of immigrants in the Bronx, NY, and of his first job as an aide to his local Congressman. In that job, he learned of the value of the partnerships that form between community organizations and financial institutions and the impact they can have in community development.
Jovita Corranza, the final panelist, related the professional satisfaction she derived from her experiences with helping small business owners and future entrepreneurs find access to capital and create jobs in low-income communities.
The interviews provided many insights into the work and experiences of its subjects, and the session can be viewed in its entirety below.