“Local” is not just a buzzword in Asheville. It’s a way of life — a sometimes radical way of life. Like, if we think big, maybe we can establish our own local stock exchange.
But hold on. Don’t overlook one of the simplest and most effective ways to support the local economy: Move some of your savings to local banks, local credit unions, local cooperatives — or even to local investment vehicles, such as locally targeted CDs — so that your money can have direct impact on your local community.
Michael Shuman — author of Local Dollars, Local Sense: How to Shift Your Money from Wall Street to Main Street and Achieve Real Prosperity — gave a rousing keynote speech at the Venture Local business forum last November in Asheville. One of the central points of his talk, and his book, is that if you really want to help your local community, you have to do more than talk the talk. You have to walk the walk.
As Ashevilleans, many of us take pride in going out of our way to spend our money locally. We’ll stand in line to eat at Early Girl or Salsa’s before even considering a chain restaurant. One of the statistics from Shuman’s talk has stuck in my head: $1 spent at a locally-owned business has on average 3.7 times more local economic impact than $1 spent at a corporate-owned business with its headquarters elsewhere.
In Asheville, of course, he was basically preaching to the choir. But, as Shuman later pointed out, it’s not enough to spend your hard-earned dollars locally. It also makes a difference where you keep those dollars.
So, what are the options for the people of Asheville? Well, you can choose to put your money in a locally owned credit union or bank. I’m not as familiar with bank options, but there are credit unions headquartered in Western North Carolina, such as Telco Community Credit Union, Mountain Credit Union or United Services Credit Union. For some, a state-chartered credit union, such as State Employees or Premier Federal, with statewide branch access, may provide an added convenience.
Self-Help Credit Union is another state-chartered credit union, and it is also the only community-development credit union in the region, with the mission, “creating and protecting economic opportunity for all” — especially those not served by traditional financial institutions.
You can also go to the North Carolina Credit Union League’s website and use their handy credit union locator at www.ncleague.org.
Another exciting new local option is to put your money in a local investment vehicle. Of course, this is where I have to plug a brand new, very exciting product, a Go Local certificate of deposit, available now through Carolina Mountains Credit Union, a division of Self-Help. Funds placed in this CD support lending to people and businesses in 13 WNC counties. This CD offers folks a place to put their deposit dollars and know they are supporting the region’s local communities by generating more local business loans, locally sourced car loans, personal loans and local home loans (which will never get sold away to some other institution). Developed through a wonderful partnership with Asheville Grown, the Go Local CD’s slogan is “Love Western North Carolina: Put Your Money Where Your Heart Is: Invest Local.”
For more information, contact Carolina Mountains' Asheville office at 676-2196 or stop by the Carolina Mountains branch at 1911 Hendersonville Road. The CD is available now, although its official launch will be later in March.
Another simple option is to research your financial institution. Ask questions! Find out how much local lending they are doing. Ask them about their lending guidelines. And, should you decide to take one of Michael Shuman’s radical recommendations and move all your money to a good, responsible local institution, here’s a website to walk you through the steps: breakupwithyourmegabank.org, sponsored by Green America.
— Jane Hatley is the WNC regional director for Self-Help Credit Union in Asheville, where she has worked since 2001, first as a commercial loan officer and then a business development officer, before becoming director upon Joyce Harrison's retirement in 2012.