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Southern works in many communities where the poverty rate exceeds 30 percent and the unemployment rate exceeds 15 percent. If the underemployed and those who have given up looking for work were included, the “real” unemployment figures would easily be in the 30-40% range. The mechanization of agriculture has deprived the area of its employment base, and so far no large-scale industry has emerged to fill the void. As a result many Delta communities have lost as much as 50% of their populations in the past fifty years.
Ultimately, responsibility for meeting these challenges lies with the Delta communities themselves. The ability of struggling communities to navigate these complexities, arrive at a shared vision for the future, and translate that vision into a new reality depends on the availability of partners with the financial and managerial capacity to support and sustain the multi-level process. By interfacing its community banks and its highly specialized nonprofit development affiliates, Southern is uniquely equipped to manage such a process.
- Southern Bancorp is the nation’s largest rural development bank.
- Founded in 1986, Southern has over 20 years of rural development experience.
- Southern and the nonprofit lending affiliate Southern Bancorp Capital Partners are certified as Community Development Financial Institutions by the Treasury Department.
- Banks have unrivaled credibility and access in rural communities. Southern’s 40+ bank branches facilitate outreach to isolated rural areas.
- Southern’s banks signify a long-term commitment to the region. Each of Southern’s banks is locally owned and managed, an increasingly rare occurrence in rural America. By making the local bank a partner in a push for change, Southern Bancorp is able to achieve more fundamental impact than any other rural development actor.