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Harbor Bank, JPMorgan looking to bring economic equity to underserved neighborhoods | COMMENTARY

Joseph Haskins is CEO of Harbor Bank.
Joseph Haskins is CEO of Harbor Bank. (Algerina Perna, Baltimore Sun)

The COVID-19 public health crisis coupled with the protests around the country calling for racial justice have made one thing clear: We must use this opportunity to confront and address long-standing issues of racial equity and access to capital and opportunity in this country. Whether we come out of this moment stronger or not depends on how we take action to change economic and social disparities.

This is why Harbor Bank and JPMorgan Chase are partnering to make long-term investments that shift the economic future of underserved communities in Baltimore and across the region. As executives of a commercial bank founded and headquartered in Baltimore and the country’s largest financial institution, we are bringing the strengths of our two institutions together to invest in communities that have been left behind for far too long. We’re playing to our strengths to invest both inclusively and in a manner reflective of the expressed needs of the communities in which we serve. We are also very clear, neither of us can catalyze economic development alone, and this moment requires collaboration from across the business community.

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This week, JPMorgan Chase will open our first branch in Cherry Hill, a Baltimore neighborhood that has lacked access to financial services from a national bank for far too long. A Chase branch won’t transform this community, but it can change the conversation and bring in new resources. This underserved community is rich with history and opportunity that is untapped, and we are working together to create jobs, support small business growth and encourage financial health through new and available programming for anyone who wants to learn about savings, credit and other tools to build a stronger financial future.

We are also listening to the community by working with the SB7 Coalition, a community organization facilitating the delivery of community benefits associated with the redevelopment of Port Covington, to ensure that we show up and offer services the community wants and needs — work that is already familiar to Harbor Bank. As a federally designated Minority Deposits Institutions Program under the FDIC and Community Development Financial Institution, Harbor Bank has deep history in Cherry Hill. Our chief lending executive grew up in the neighborhood and we have worked extensively to support the creation of the Cherry Hill Community Development Corporation’s community master plan through our affiliate, The Harbor Bank of Maryland Community Development Corporation.

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Harbor Bank and JPMorgan Chase’s work together also includes two important programs that bring resources directly to small businesses in this community — the Paycheck Protection Program and the Entrepreneurs of Color Fund. The PPP program, despite its flaws, has been a critical lifeline for businesses. JPMorgan Chase has been proud to support a joint venture between Harbor Bank and Combs Enterprises to ensure that small businesses and sole proprietors in minority communities gained access to the Paycheck Protection Program.

Through our Entrepreneurs of Color Fund, an idea that JPMorgan Chase piloted in Detroit and Chicago, we are working together to provide long-term capital to small businesses owned and operated by Black and Latino people in Baltimore. This new fund’s investments have supported a range of businesses, including small developers rehabilitating row homes in East and West Baltimore, healthy food providers, and medical and investment professionals starting independent practices.

Our work together is just the beginning of a long road ahead to address racial equity in Baltimore and around the country. As business leaders, it is our job to go beyond statements and do everything we can to root out racism — to use the power and resources of our institutions to both shift the conversation and invest in creating real opportunities that empower Black and Latino communities and support Black and Latino institutions.

With Black-owned business closures increasing and household wealth decreasing, we cannot let another moment like this pass again without developing real solutions. We have been encouraged by the growing acknowledgment and awareness of the need to address racial equity, and we strongly encourage all businesses to come together and work with us and our partners in the public sector and in the community to take action that will better the lives of all Baltimoreans. We know we can all do more; we have no time to lose.

Joseph Haskins (jhaskins@theharborbank.com) is chairman and CEO of The Harbor Bank of Maryland. Peter Scher (Office.Of.Peter.Scher@jpmchase.com) is head of corporate responsibility and chairman of the Mid-Atlantic Region, JPMorgan Chase & Co.

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