‘Put Money Back in Our Community,’ D.C. Bank President Says

Banking While Black

by: Lenore T. Adkins Special to the AFRO
/ (Photo Courtesy/industrial-bank.com) /
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The president and chief executive officer of Industrial Bank, the oldest Black-owned bank in the District of Columbia, is urging Blacks to keep their dollars in the community by supporting Black businesses.

B. Doyle Mitchell Jr., president and chief executive officer of Industrial Bank. (Photo Courtesy/industrial-bank.com)

“We have to do business with all of our businesses,” B. Doyle Mitchell Jr. said Nov. 1 at a town hall meeting held at Union Temple Baptist Church in Southeast D.C. “And I can tell you that — I’m almost certain about it — there is nothing we can’t do to fix our situation but put money back in our community.”

Industrial Bank, which operates five branches in the District and two in Prince George’s County, practices what it preaches.

The bank now buys its paper from Freedom Paper Company, a Black-owned manufacturer and distributor of paper products headquartered in Baltimore — founder and chief executive officer Kamose Muhammad confirmed to the AFRO that the bank is one of his clients.

Industrial Bank previously sourced its paper products through Office Depot, but severed those ties several years ago to work with Freedom Paper Company, said Jacqueline Boles, the bank’s director of retail and operations.

The bank was also buying its bottled water from Blue Delta Water, a Black-owned company in Upper Marlboro, Md., before the company went out of business in 2013.

Most importantly though, Industrial Bank reinvests 60 percent of its assets back into the community it serves, Boles said.

The bank also offers related community outreach initiatives including holding free financial literacy seminars and other sessions that focus on home ownership, retirement and the importance of saving.

The bank is also working with 14-to-17 year olds incarcerated in Baltimore and will soon do the same thing for youth serving time in the District, Boles said.

“By your deposits and by your loans and by your complete relationship, you empower us to affect the livelihoods of our families and our communities,” Boles said. “It is so critical that we follow what Mr. Mitchell and what so many others have said to us: seek out those opportunities to support each other because it will affect those children that we see incarcerated in jail. It’ll reduce those numbers. It will affect employment. It will affect how our Black men see each other. It will affect how our Black women see each other.”

The town hall meeting focused on Black banks’ role in the Black community.

While African Americans comprise 13.2 percent of the United States’ population, less than half of one percent of U.S. banks are Black-owned, according to the Federal Reserve.

In 2017, there are about 20 banks with a majority Black ownership in the U.S., a steep decline from when there were 41 in 2007, a year before the recession hit.

It appears Industrial is the only Black-owned bank left in the D.C.

Jesse H. Mitchell — Mitchell’s grandfather — founded Industrial Bank in 1934 during the Great Depression. B. Doyle Mitchell Jr. succeeded his namesake father as bank president in 1993.

As of 2015, the bank had more than $300 million in deposits and was one of the 10 largest Black-owned banks nationwide, according to the bank’s annual report from the same year.

Black borrowers continue to face obstacles securing home loans from big banks and when they do get them, they’re typically paying higher interest rates, according to the Pew Research Center.

In 2015, 27.4 percent of Black applicants were denied mortgages, while roughly 11 percent of White and Asian applicants experienced the same fate.

In 2014, just 5.3 percent of all approved mortgage applications from the 10 largest retail banks in the U.S. were Black, down from 7.8 percent in 2007, before the financial crisis, The Wall Street Journal reported.

“We were formed to serve originally a Black population that was being underserved, that they didn’t want to lend to anyway,” Mitchell said, noting that Black buying power is expected to reach $1.3 trillion by the end of the year. “Don’t tell me we don’t have any money.”

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