Community bank idea explored Loans would help attract industry

November 15, 1992|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Staff Writer

Carroll commissioners and local bankers are exploring the possibility of forming a community development bank to help attract industry to the county.

Commercial banks and county government would pool money to provide equity investments or make low-interest loans to businesses seeking to locate in Carroll, said William E. Jenne, business development manager for the county's Office of Economic Development.

"It would be an alternative means of financing that's not available now," he said.

The idea is in a preliminary stage, and the commissioners said they have not decided to set up a community bank.

Last month, the commissioners voted unanimously to hire a Washington consultant for $6,000 to interview area bankers and determine how a community bank might be structured here.

A Carroll community bank would be patterned after other Community Development Corp. banks in the United States, Mr. Jenne said. "It's a collection of money for economic development purposes."

Union National Bank President Joseph Beaver said the concept rTC has worked in such cities as Chicago, where money was pooled to help upgrade certain neighborhoods.

Carroll's commissioners are more interested in attracting industry to create new jobs, he said.

Commissioner Julia W. Gouge said the bank could provide venture capital to help new businesses get started or money to train employees.

Commissioner Donald I. Dell said he's "kind of lukewarm" on the idea. "I feel industries need to support themselves" and not rely on government money, he said.

He said he will wait for the consultant's report before he decides whether to pursue the idea.

The consultant, John Sower, president of Development Finance Corp., estimated that establishing the bank could cost about $15,000, Mr. Jenne said. It's possible the commercial banks could pay that cost, Mr. Jenne said.

Mr. Sower, who has helped set up other community development banks, could not be reached for comment Friday.

In a letter to the county last year, Mr. Sower said community development banks are regulated by federal and state officials, and are operated for profit. They make investments not normally allowed by bank regulators, such as equity investments in real estate and small businesses, if the public would benefit from such investments.

Mr. Beaver said federal regulations allow commercial banks to invest 5 percent of their capital in community development banks. For Union National, that would be about $600,000, he said.

A community development bank in Carroll would need the participation of several local banks to be successful, Mr. Beaver said.

The community bank would have a board of directors, and administrative work might be done by the county's Economic Development Office, Mr. Jenne said.

Lee M. Depot, manager at the Westminster branch of First National Bank of Maryland, said the bank might be a way to attract high-tech, clean industry to the county, but his bank needs to know more about the project before committing to it.

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