On the 50th anniversary of Shorebank’s founding, Opportunity Finance Network recognizes bank founders Mary Houghton, Ron Grzywinski, Jim Fletcher, and Milton Davis for demonstrating that providing financial services to poor communities is both sustainable and profitable, spawning a $250 billion industry.
Washington, D.C. – Today, Opportunity Finance Network (OFN) awarded the founders of ShoreBank — Mary Houghton, Ron Grzywinski, Jim Fletcher (posthumous), and Milton Davis (posthumous) — the 2023 Ned Gramlich Lifetime Achievement Award for Responsible Finance. Awarded annually by OFN, the nation’s leading network of community development financial institutions (CDFIs), the Gramlich Award is the CDFI industry’s highest individual honor.
During ShoreBank’s 37 years of operations, the nation’s first CDFI inspired a national movement, seeding what is now a nearly $250 billion industry. Its founders helped shape federal community development legislation. Its business model catalyzed the concepts of double-and triple-bottom-line enterprises.
“No one better embodies the values of the opportunity finance industry than the four founders of ShoreBank,” said Donna Gambrell, president and CEO of Appalachian Community Capital and chair of the OFN Board of Directors. “So many of us in the industry are guided and inspired by the work of these brilliant and diverse trailblazers. On behalf of OFN, I am truly thrilled to recognize Ron, Mary, Jim, and Milton with this honor.”
ShoreBank was founded 50 years ago in 1973 when the four honorees purchased South Shore National Bank, which was poised to be sold and relocated from the predominantly black South Shore to predominantly white downtown Chicago. The founders sought to rebuild South Shore by empowering the community and investing in its economic development, a radical idea in the days of redlining.
“It gives me great pleasure to recognize these giants of our industry,” said Harold Pettigrew, president and CEO of OFN. “By marrying modest profitability with strong social impact – and doing it so successfully – Ronald, Mary, Jim, and Milton completely upended the conventional wisdom that investing in low-income, formerly redlined communities was bad business. The legacy of ShoreBank and its founders lives on through the many institutional, policy, and professional progeny they inspired and nurtured, and I am proud to honor them with the 2023 Ned Gramlich Award.”
ShoreBank’s founders devoted their lives to demonstrating that investing in and providing financial services to poor communities is not only sustainable, but profitable. ShoreBank’s financial model was replicated in Arkansas and inspired the creation of the CDFI Fund by President Bill Clinton. Although ShoreBank closed in 2010, it leaves behind a thriving community development finance sector. Today, CDFIs are widely recognized as a critical part of the financial ecosystem and powerful agents of community economic development.
Houghton, Grzywinski, and Maria Barksdale, the daughter of Jim Fletcher, accepted the Gramlich Award in Washington at the OFN Annual Conference, the largest industry event in the country.
The award is named for Ned Gramlich, a staunch, longtime advocate for responsible finance. As the former Board of Governors’ primary liaison to the Federal Reserve’s Consumer Advisory Council, Gramlich advised on community development and consumer finance policy matters. He was an outspoken voice against predatory lending and a strong defender of the Community Reinvestment Act. He served on the OFN Board of Directors from October 2006 until his death in 2007.
Previous Gramlich awardees include Janie Barrera (2022); Susan Tachau (2021); Inez Long (2020); Michael Swack (2019); Nancy O. Andrews (2018); Linda Davenport and John Berdes (2017); Elsie Meeks (2016); Moises Loiza (2015); Bill Bynum (2014); Ron Phillips (2013); Juliana Evades (2012); Jeremy Nowak (2011); Sister Corinne Floret (2010); Martin Eakes (2009); Cliff Rosenthal (2008); and Ned Gramlich (2007).
Opportunity Finance Network (OFN) is the leading national network of community development financial institutions. Its membership of more than 400 mission lenders specializes in providing affordable, responsible financial products and services in low-income rural, urban, and Native communities nationwide. As a trusted intermediary between CDFIs and the public and private sectors, OFN partners with banks, philanthropies, corporations, government agencies, and others to create economic opportunity for all by strengthening and investing in CDFIs.
Since its founding in 1986 and through 2021, the network has originated $100.4 billion in financing in rural, urban, and Native communities, helping to create or maintain more than 2.6 million jobs, start or expand more than 696,000 businesses and microenterprises, and support the development or rehabilitation of more than 2.3 million housing units and more than 13,600 community facility projects.