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Public Meeting Transcripts

Public Meeting Regarding NationsBank and BankAmerica

Friday, July 10, 1998

Transcript of Panel Thirty-Two


       1              We're waiting for the next witnesses to
       2   arrive.  One of them is coming in from the airport and
       3   the second one is someone who was scheduled to appear at
       4   5:50 and we haven't been able to get hold of her to let
       5   her know that we have been running ahead of schedule.  
       6              So we're going to take a break until at least
       7   one of them shows up and maybe until both of them show
       8   up.             MS. YOUNG.  Madam Chairman, are you still
       9   going to have open mike thereafter?  
      10              MS. SMITH:  What we have been doing is working
      11   people into the schedule that we know were going to show
      12   up for open mike, or, not that we know, but who have
      13   expressed interested.  
      14              If there is anybody here in the audience that
      15   is here for open mike, then we're ready.
      16              Are you one of them?  
      17              MS. YOUNG:  No.  
      18              MS. SMITH:  We're ready to hear from
      19   Ms. Johnson and are very appreciative of the fact she
      20   came early.  Ms. Johnson.
      21              MS. JOHNSON:  I'm Marla Johnson.  I'm from
      22   Little Rock, Arkansas.  I'm the COO of a company called
      23   Aristotle Internet.  I'm also the chair of the Arkansas
      24   Small Business Coalition.  I'm here to speak favorably of
      25   NationsBank and their commitment to the Little Rock
      26   community.


       1              About a year ago some women business owners
       2   and me had found out the City of Little Rock was involved
       3   in some worthy goals to level the playing field and
       4   encourage small business in Little Rock, but the means by
       5   which they determined this, we felt, were a duplication
       6   of services and a waste of resources.  So we began to
       7   form the Arkansas Small Business Coalition around this
       8   problem and, in the meantime, became aware of similar
       9   problems in our community.
      10              We then became involved with NationsBank and
      11   we became aware that, besides the public policy people in
      12   our community, the corporate world and other government
      13   regulators and dispensers of services were really not
      14   connected to small businesses and that became a part of
      15   our purpose.  We realized that we weren't communicating,
      16   much less were we a unified force for economic
      17   development in the Central Arkansas area.
      18              So we struggled against turf battles and
      19   limited resources and we fought against a lot of people
      20   who were not really in favor of our taking that kind of a
      21   role, but the representatives of NationsBank were very
      22   supportive.  They were a new company in town, they
      23   supported us and guided us.  They saw that the goals that
      24   we had were worthwhile ones.  They lent us resources,
      25   faxing machines and legal resources and gave a lot of
      26   good advice.


       1              Since then, we've grown.  We've saved the
       2   taxpayers from spending over a million dollars to fund a
       3   program that would have actually competed with existing
       4   free services and small businesses in the Little Rock
       5   area.
       6              We began to close the gap between community
       7   leaders and small businesses, including women and
       8   minority business owners, and we began to develop a
       9   business resource center in downtown Little Rock.  And we
      10   are now providing many needed services and educational
      11   resources to small businesses.
      12              None of this would have been possible without
      13   NationsBank.  They have been a very valuable partner to
      14   us, to the small businesses in Arkansas.
      15              I would say that the qualities that
      16   NationsBank representatives have had have been dedication
      17   to services for the whole community including the small
      18   business community.  They have made a real effort to help
      19   level the playing field, again, for small businesses. 
      20   They're not a business-as-usual kind of a company.  They
      21   really came in and did not join the good-old-boy network
      22   but have provided real opportunities to minority and
      23   women in businesses.
      24              They have been generous, without strings
      25   attached to nonprofits like the Arkansas Small Business
      26   Coalition and have a corporate culture that nurtures


       1   employees who want to serve the community.  There have
       2   been attentive to fairness with a broad view of economic
       3   development.  They have been resourceful and a skilled,
       4   brave and a diplomatic partner to small businesses.
       5              In other words, through the generous support
       6   to the Small Business Coalition in Arkansas, NationsBank
       7   has made a positive contribution to the Little Rock small
       8   businesses.  
       9              It may seem ironic, as the chair of the
      10   Arkansas Small Business Coalition and as a small business
      11   manager, I am here to testify in favor of making
      12   NationsBank an even bigger business, but it is true to
      13   state that, in my experience, when NationsBank came to
      14   Little Rock, small businesses gained the most effective,
      15   generous and inclusive partner it had ever seen.  As a
      16   result, good things are happening for small businesses in
      17   Little Rock.  
      18              MS. SMITH:  Thank you.  Any questions?  
      19              Thank you very much for coming this afternoon.
      20              MS. SMITH:  Our next witness is on his way up
      21   from the lobby.
      22              (Pause in proceedings.) 
      23              MR. KREHMEYER:  I want to thank everybody for
      24   the opportunity to speak here on behalf of the proposed
      25   merger of Bank of America and NationsBank.  
      26              The Ecumenical Housing, the organization I


       1   represent, is the largest not-for-profit housing provider
       2   in St. Louis County, Missouri.  We own and run almost 200
       3   scattered site, single-family rental homes.  We also
       4   provide support services for families living in those
       5   single homes, typically a single mom with three kids. 
       6   Through secure housing in good neighborhoods and the
       7   provision of  assistance with education and employment
       8   programs, money management training skills, we help our
       9   families long and continue them into economic
      10   independence and self sufficiency.  
      11              When NationsBank first entered our community,
      12   buying the largest banking institution and a friend of
      13   not-for-profit sector, there was the fear that this huge,
      14   out of town monolith would not be the partner and leader
      15   that its predecessor was.  While the dialogue to the
      16   community was good, the old Missouri adage of "Show Me"
      17   was very prevalent. 
      18              I am extremely pleased to report that
      19   NationsBank has exceeded most of our expectations in
      20   being a partner in our work and has become a leader in
      21   bettering neighborhoods in the lives of families that
      22   live there.
      23              They have been pro active and aggressive in
      24   looking at local problems and helping us fix them.  Their
      25   product experience in other markets has been invaluable
      26   to us.  St. Louis has a reputation of being unwilling to


       1   try new things, but NationsBank has shown us that
       2   community development problems can have many solutions.  
       3              NationsBank has taken a leadership role in the
       4   much-needed revitalization of our downtown area and has
       5   committed significant resources to the new Regional
       6   Neighborhood Support Collaborative which provides much
       7   needed operating resources for neighborhood-based
       8   community development corporations.  
       9              In addition, the bank has impressed us by
      10   hiring key staff from our community.  Two of the leaders
      11   in the community investment and development divisions are
      12   the former Executive Director of our local Neighborhood
      13   Housing Services affiliate and the former Director of
      14   Community Development Agency for the City of St. Louis
      15   and St. Louis County.  
      16              These two individuals bring a wealth of
      17   knowledge about our community to the bank staff. 
      18   Further, these two individuals are well respected and
      19   accessible to the front line folks who toil every day to
      20   try to better their lives and the people in the community
      21   they serve.
      22              Our experience with NationsBank has been very
      23   positive.  It appears that as Ecumenical Housing,
      24   NationsBank believes in the adage that "doing good is
      25   good business."  
      26              We strongly support the proposed merger and


       1   hope that our comments somewhat allay the fears of those
       2   who may oppose it.  Thanks.  
       3              MS. SMITH:  Is there per chance anyone in the
       4   room who is interested in taking the opportunity to use
       5   our open mike session?
       6              If not, I do believe that we have brought to a
       7   conclusion our two-day meeting.  I sort have sort of come
       8   full circle to say this has been an important public
       9   meeting for collecting information that will be relevant
      10   to the board's determination on this application.  
      11              So we thank you very much.  We thank all of
      12   the other close to 200 people who came to present
      13   testimony, and we are adjourned.
      14              (Whereupon the proceedings concluded.) 
Last update: December 3, 2010