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Three questions

Al Pina: Board chairman, Florida Minority Community Reinvestment Coalition

By JEFF HARRINGTON
Published January 12, 2004

Q. The Greenlining Institute, which you've worked closely with, has convinced financial institutions to pledge billions of dollars to help minorities and low-income residents in California. What are your goals with this new coalition for the Florida market?

The Greenlining Institute has agreed to help us, and we're going to learn from their mistakes. We've talked roughly about what our goals would be over a five-year period. We're trying to acquire commitments in the neighborhood of $1-billion. The organization will be headquartered out of Tampa. We'll be looking at . . . $200-million to $500-million being directed toward that region. We're in the process of creating a for-profit called Optimum, and its sole stockholder will be the nonprofit (reinvestment coalition). It's main mission will be to develop real estate projects.

Q. Florida already has a handful of community development organizations and other groups aiding the poor. How did your recent community development summit in Fort Lauderdale go in bringing them together?

It's actually been quite easy to organize the minority CDCs (community development corporations) and nonprofits and faith-based groups around the state. California has been having these kinds of summits for 15 years. It's kind of surprising this was the first statewide development summit. I don't know one CDC in the state that is not having financial problems. When they see the hundreds of millions of dollars that Greenlining has obtained, their obvious reaction is, "What about Florida?"

Q. Do you think Florida has been given short shrift in pledges of community investment from banks following the big bank mergers that reshaped the state?

Absolutely. Florida got shortchanged into the hundreds of millions of dollars. You're talking about the mergers (that built up) the Bank of America, SunTrust, especially Wachovia.

With the latest, the Bank of America/Fleet merger . . . both New England and California are moving very aggressively about earmarking certain commitments (for bank spending in their areas). What we're saying is Florida cannot be left behind. We're taking a group of representatives from Florida to a San Francisco Federal Reserve hearing (on the merger) Jan. 16. Another one, which we will submit a letter of protest to, is Colonial Bank (which is buying Premier Community Bank of Florida). There has been no commitment made.

[Last modified January 9, 2004, 20:15:35]

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