Two Charlotte companies will aim $20 million at the city’s economic mobility problem

By Deon Roberts, The Charlotte Observer

This article was originally published in The Charlotte Observer.

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Bank of America and chemical company Albemarle Corp. announced Thursday they are each donating $10 million to more than a dozen Charlotte-area nonprofits to address the region’s upward mobility problem.

The $20 million from the Charlotte-based companies follows an eye-opening 2014 study that ranked Charlotte last among 50 large metro areas for upward mobility. That report, from Harvard and the University of California at Berkeley, examined the odds that poor children in Charlotte have to lift themselves out of poverty.

For the region’s companies and economy, there’s much riding on addressing the issue, said Charles Bowman, the bank’s Charlotte market president. “(If) we don’t have talented, well-educated people in the community, we won’t be attractive to future economic development,” Bowman said. “So it’s partly philanthropic and partly self-interest.”

The hope is that additional companies will also invest or get involved, he said. The two companies said their donations will go to 17 nonprofits over five years. Each nonprofit focuses on one of three areas: early child care and education; college and career readiness; or family and child stability, the companies said.

A report by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force, which was formed in response to the 2014 study, identified those three areas as most likely to have the greatest influence on economic mobility.

Each nonprofit will receive between a half million dollars to a couple million dollars, Bowman said.

Thursday’s donation brings together two local employers to work on a major issue facing the region. Across the metro area, Bank of America employs roughly 15,000 and Albemarle employs about 445, according to spokespeople for the companies.

Albemarle is relatively new to the region, having announced in 2015 plans to relocate its headquarters to Charlotte from Louisiana. The company, which has been a Bank of America client, was looking for ways to make an impact in Charlotte with its charitable foundation, Bowman said.

Discussions between Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan and Albemarle CEO Luke Kissam resulted in Thursday’s announcement, Bowman said. Moynihan has also commented publicly in the past about the need for Charlotte to do something about the economic mobility problem.

“We hope this investment sets a tone to encourage others to step up however they can, with dollars, sweat equity or social capital, and help address economic mobility in Charlotte,” Sandra Holub, executive director of the Albemarle Foundation, said in a statement. The foundation, which gives grants to nonprofits, receives funding from Albemarle Corp. and its employees and retirees.

It is the largest donation Albemarle Foundation has made in the Charlotte region, company spokeswoman Hailey Cobb said.

For Bank of America, the $10 million is among the largest contributions it’s made in Charlotte, spokeswoman Ferris Morrison said. The amount matches an investment the bank made about seven years ago in Project L.I.F.T., she said. Project L.I.F.T. is a public-private partnership focused on improving performance of public schools in Charlotte.

Thursday’s donation adds to steps others in Charlotte have taken in response to the economic mobility problem.

For example, in May the Foundation for the Carolinas announced a $5 million investment to address Charlotte’s shortage of affordable housing. In making the donation, the foundation pointed to the task force report’s recommendation for the creation of a Housing Opportunity Investment Fund to subsidize new development.

The foundation said its investment is dependent on the passage of a $50 million bond referendum the city of Charlotte will put before voters in November. The affordable housing bonds would help fund affordable housing development.

In August, San Francisco-based Wells Fargo, which has a large presence in Charlotte, announced a $5 million grant to the housing fund.

And last year, Hornets owner Michael Jordan said he was donating $7 million to launch two medical clinics in troubled Charlotte communities. At the time, Jordan spokeswoman Estee Portnoy said Jordan was largely spurred by the Harvard/University of California study.

Nonprofits receiving aid

Here are the nonprofits receiving the $20 million:

Augustine Literacy Project

Camino Community Center

Carolina Youth Coalition

CMS Foundation

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools

Communities In Schools

Johnson & Wales University

Freedom School Partners

Heart Math Tutoring

Project L.I.F.T.

Read Charlotte

Safe Alliance

Tutor Charlotte

Vision to Learn

Year Up

YWCA

YMCA Y Readers Program

9/27/2018


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