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WRBPA President on Another Bank (TD Bank) Coming to West Roxbury

"Banks don't open branches unless there is business for them so it is a good sign of strength," said Mary Mulvey Jacobson, president of the West Roxbury Business and Professional Association.

TD Bank will be before the City of Boston's Board of Appeal on Tuesday, August 9, 2011 at 10:30 a.m. to seek zoning relief to open a branch at 1833 Centre St., the current location of . 

This would be a conditional use. They are requesting that they be allowed to demolish the existing structure, erect a one-story building for bank with a drive-thru ATM machines and to replace the existing free standing sign. 

If my calculations are correct, this will be the 14th bank in West Roxbury. It may seem like a lot, but back in the 1980s and 1990s, there were 13 banks in the community. With all the mergers and consolidations, the number of banks was reduced. Banks don't open branches unless there is business for them so it is a good sign of strength. 

I have received numerous emails and calls since sending an email about the Board of Appeal date for TD Bank. It is only my opinion but I don't believe the problem is too many banks; it's what are these banks doing to play the crucial role of strengthening and growing our business community.    

Having been in the trenches with so many of you since the 1980s, working to make West Roxbury's various business areas ones that thrive and meet the needs of the community, it has been both successful and not so much. As you all know, in addition to reasonable rents and other costs of doing business, the major component of establishing and operating a business is money.  As the saying goes, "Money makes the world go around" but unfortunately, some of our lending institutions have not been helpful in completing the circle.  Prudent lending is the mandate of banks but it seems that some of our banks have gone beyond being prudent and have become obstructionists. They take the money in but that money doesn't seem to go out to our local businesses at the levels it should.      

We all are living through the meltdown of the financial industry in this country and we all have suffered from it. Many of our financial institutions have exhibited greed far beyond anything we could have imagined. Although changes have occurred on the federal and state levels in an attempt to protect the citizens of this country, it has not gone far enough. 

These most harmful practices may seem well beyond our control, but in a grassroots attempt to address banks that do business in and with the City of Boston but don't give back, in the Boston City Council to change the Request for Proposal (RFP) for the financial industry if they want to do business with the City of Boston's financial accounts. 

From what I can see and I could be wrong, none of our local, in-state banks receive a portion of the City's deposits that they, in turn, can get back on the streets in business loans and residential mortgages. The RFP, as written, basically precludes these community banks from participating. This needs to change. If a financial institution is going to benefit from the City's money, the residents and businesses in the city need to benefit from the institution. A change in the RFP could bring about meaningful and positive economic changes in all the neighborhoods of the City of Boston.      

At any one time, there is over $1 billion of our funds placed in various financial institutions and it is highly questionable whether some of these lending institutions who currently hold this money are actively giving back to the city that placed these funds in their care. Councilor Arroyo's proposed legislation seeks to make "investing in Boston" a key component in successfully receiving designation to hold city funds.

A message needs to be sent that if you are going to profit from City of Boston funds, you have to document that you are actually giving back support to our businesses and residents with meaningful and responsive financial products. 

The city must also be prudent in its placement of our money so this must be handled with the utmost care and due diligence. This is not a simple issue, but I am sure that some of you will concur with me that the issues surrounding banks and lending practices that should benefit the rank and file of our small businesses and resident community is nowhere near what it should be. New and expanded businesses equals more jobs and a stronger economy.

Let's start right here in Boston to demand that the fair and equitable thing be done: expand the playing field to allow more financial institutions to participate in the RFP process and make them all accountable to us that they will invest in Boston. Let's trickle up.

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