Yvonne McJetters rises and introduces herself to an economist and two philanthropy executives. She lives in East Charlotte, and she says she’s seen the community go from vibrant to decaying.
“Yes, (Charlotte) has enough (wealth), and we would like to see it spread around, but what is your idea of around?” she said. “Spread the love!”
Such candid conversations with economic experts are the goal of new speaker series “Conversations with the Fed,” which aims to engage academics, city officials and citizens alike in discussion of economic issues in the bank’s region. The latest event, held Thursday evening, focused on economic disparity in Charlotte and other urban areas.
“The numbers show that (Charlotte) is an economically vibrant city,” said Santiago Pinto, a senior policy economist with the Fed who spoke at the event. “But it’s important to understand how much of those gains are being shared by most of the population."
Pinto’s presentation was followed by a panel discussion that included foundation executives Brian Collier and Charles Thomas, who talked more specifically about issues of disparity and economic development in Charlotte.
Charles Thomas, the Charlotte program director of the Knight Foundation, discussed leveraging overall growth for the benefit of all communities within a city, as well as intentionally working to dismantle the difficult economic legacy of racism and segregated development in Charlotte.
Brian Collier, executive vice president of the Foundation for the Carolinas, talked about his foundation’s work for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force.
“I already see impact in our community,” he said of the task force. “One of the things that’s driving me nuts is when people say, ‘Nothing’s happening.’”
The speaker series seeks to raise awareness of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond and what role it plays. The Richmond Fed is one of 12 independent regional banks that are part of the central bank. It's territory covers the Carolinas, Virginia, Maryland, the District of Columbia and most of West Virginia.
“It’s a chance for us to talk about work that’s relevant to what we do,” said Matt Martin, senior vice president of the Richmond Fed and regional executive of the Charlotte branch.
Martin said that while the Fed may be somewhat limited in its role as a monetary regulator, it’s important that the bank understand and engage the public in conversations regarding the economic issues of its region.
Collier also discussed the public’s role in keeping officials aware of the economic conditions in their communities. In response to McJetters’ question about her neighborhood in East Charlotte, he had a request.
“Hold me accountable,” Collier said. “I need people telling me what I’m doing right and what I’m not.”