Huntington Bank Commits $20B to New Community Plan

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – As Huntington Bank hit its goals for the 2017 Community Plan well ahead of schedule, the bank is committing to another $20 billion over the course of five years.

The money will be focused on three areas: access to capital ($7.6 billion), affordable housing and home ownership ($7.5 billion) and community investment ($4.9 billion). 

“Huntington is a purpose-driven bank focused on making people’s lives better, helping businesses thrive and strengthening the communities we serve,” said President and CEO  Stephen Steinour in a video announcement. “That’s why, in the wake of the pandemic and recession and the critical issues of social and racial inequity, our purpose is leading us to do more to support underserved people, businesses and communities.”

Overall, says Bill Shivers, Huntington’s Canton/Mahoning Valley regional president, the new five-year plan isn’t drastically different from the commitment made three years ago. The biggest differences are how much it commits – about 20% more dollars – and the focus of the programs supported.

“We’re going to lend more to women-, minority- and veteran-owned businesses. It’s not that we didn’t do those things before, but now we’re making it a focus. It’s looking at how we can make a difference and making the biggest impact we can,” he says. “We’ve always supported food banks, but when there are two-hour lines for food banks, we know we can find ways to help with that.”

In its announcement, Huntington Bank said the $7.6 billion commitment to business would include investments in business planning and educational programs for owners. The exact details and how business leaders can tap into those funds are yet to be released, Shivers says, but will be made public later.

He suggested that one avenue could be the expansion of financing programs outside of the usual slate of banking products, such as SBA 7A loans, which Huntington is the largest lender for nationwide.

“We wanted to make the commitment in terms of the dollar amount now. It’ll probably be several programs,” Shivers says. “It’s giving access to businesses that need capital. It’s going to be looking at if there’s a different, better way to finance than a traditional banking product.”

Through the commitment to homeownership and affordable housing, the bank will continue its first-time buyer programs, improve housing security for consumers and help with home rehabilitation and refinancing existing home loans.

“The process is scary and exhilarating. We’ve had programs in the Mahoning Valley and in Akron/Canton where we’ve made an impact on first-time homebuyers or low- and moderate-income tracts,” Shivers says.

By fostering homeowners, Huntington can help create stability in neighborhoods. 

“It can help revitalize neighborhoods and gets the community excited,” he says. “When people say a neighborhood is blighted, if we can get in there and help people reach ownership, the property can be taken care of better and that benefits the whole community.”

And through community lending and investment in efforts like workforce development, food security and social equity. While such efforts won’t necessarily add to Huntington’s bottom line, they’ll nonetheless positively impact communities across the bank’s seven-state footprint.

“This is going to provide opportunities,” Shivers says. “It may not have an impact on the bottom line, but it will have an impact on the communities and in the long run, everyone will be better off.”

While the 2020 Community Plan has been in the works for some time, Shivers says the need for such an effort is greater now than ever. Between the coronavirus pandemic, the economic turbulence that it brought and the waves of social unrest and protests against racial inequities in America, “now is the time to step up,” Shivers says.

“Obviously $20 billion is a large commitment but it’s all needed right now,” he continues. “The need is greater than ever. We’re hoping that this spurs people to make these kinds of investments because it’s all about our communities.”

The coronavirus pandemic, said U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown in a video statement for the announcement, has been a “great revealer” highlighting the gaps that communities face when it comes to nearly every aspect of life, from health care to homeownership.

“It’s reminded us how vulnerable families are to a single setback,” he said. “Now more than ever, our communities need investment. Small-business owners, especially business owners of color, need loans and investments to make it through this pandemic and years to come.

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.