Community Promise Media Intern Cassie Thompson recently interviewed George Erickcek about why he has been a strong supporter of Community Promise.
George is the Senior Regional Analyst at the W. E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research and makes regular presentations on regional economic trends to a variety of audiences. He was a member of the original Steering Committee that first brought the idea of a Community Development Credit Union to Kalamazoo.
A fast cash advance with no credit check sounds like a good solution to a surprise car repair or a large phone bill, but not when paired with large fees and interest rates of 300%-1000%.
This is payday lending, and in the current economy these businesses are making millions annually from people already struggling to make ends meet. Today, it is estimated that there are 12 million Americans in debt each year from loans, the majority to the payday lending industry.
The Federal Truth in Lending Act, written in 1968, requires these lenders to disclose the cost of their loans, including the fee and interest. However, even with this information, the total costs of these loans may not seem as extreme as they really are.
Jim Houston was excited about Community Promise the minute he heard about it. “When I was approached about helping to create a credit union that would serve the low economic population in Kalamazoo, I jumped at the opportunity,” Jim says. “I have long been concerned about the proliferation of payday lenders and rent-to-own businesses in the Kalamazoo area. I saw this as a chance to do something about the situation.”
Jim has served as the chair of the board that is putting the credit union together since 2010, and he feels fortunate to be leading a dedicated and talented group of volunteers. “We have a group of very talented individuals with vast experiences in the financial field,” Jim notes. “Their experience has been invaluable, and I look forward to continuing the relationship with these fine folks after Community Promise opens.”
An Open House was held September 15, 2011 to celebrate the renovation of the building where Community Promise will have its main office. Community leaders who attended the Open House, including Kalamazoo Mayor Bobby Hopewell, were thrilled that the building, which most recently was home to an adult book store, would now be a key part of the renaissance of the Portage Street corridor and the Washington Square neighborhood.
The 100 year-old building – most recently home to an “adult” book store – was renovated earlier this year with a $250,000 Community Development Block Grant awarded by the City of Kalamazoo to Downtown Tomorrow, Inc (DTI). DTI had purchased the property and other similar businesses located in the 1300 block of Portage Street in 2004 as part of a community effort to revitalize the Edison neighborhood.