Economics: source of, and solution to, our problems

Community development is dependent on one thing -- money

Opinion

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By Arlene Jones

Columnist

I was curious as to what I was writing about years ago around this time. A friend has often suggested that I put my columns into a book and publish them. It is something I might just do in the years to come.

In the meantime, let's go back 10 years to 2006 because the hot topic then was Walmart's attempts to come into Chicago. The store got built at North and Cicero avenues and was lauded until others started popping up. Austin residents have an additional option just off Diversey and Cicero, and there is another brand new Walmart just west of the city at 35th and Cicero. And guess what? Chicago has not come to a standstill because of them.

But the same can't be said for Margaret Garner, the African American female contractor who was all front and center as the hype person to promote the first Walmart ever built in the city. By 2011, she had filed for bankruptcy and her name was never associated with any other major new development.

Moving forward to July 2008, I had written an earlier column that proposed the old Brach Candy site become a Black Entertainment District. Not only would my proposed idea host a casino and hotel, it would also offer a venue for performances, a banquet facility, shopping center and water park. But, alas, my idea was taken to task by "community activists" who wanted a high school on the property, even though many of them never said a word as CPS played games with Austin High School, Michelle Clarke and Douglass Academy.

A new high school, ITW David Speer, did get built in Austin. It primarily serves the burgeoning Hispanic population and like the other schools built for them, was done quietly and without rancor.

In the meantime, it has been 13 years since Brach Candy closed shop and went to Mexico. The site is now empty and only time will tell if the proposed warehouse and distribution center will be built. However, seeing how the city has spent money on Cicero Avenue/Mandela Road updates, hopefully something will occur sooner than later.

In August 2010, I wrote a column about how our young people were far too often simply "hanging out" because there was so little for them to do. We all know that "idle time is the devil's playground."

In August 2012, before most folks even knew what it was, I was calling for Obama to bring his Presidential Library to Chicago while also predicting that he would never return.

In 2014, I was cheering the accomplishments of the Jackie Robinson Little League team and hoping that their win would bring a plethora of support for youth sports, baseball especially.

All of the things I wrote about in the past are dependent on one thing: Money — money that is invested in our community as well as money that we spend amongst each other. For the past couple of weeks, social media has caught on to that idea. Best of all, many people are responding by opening up a savings account at a black-owned bank or credit union. Seaway Bank has reported over one and a half million dollars in new money deposited. Those deposits not only help the bank's bottom line, it is the money that we expect them to lend out so we can see investments in our neighborhoods for the things we should have.

Deposits at Seaway are FDIC-insured for up to $250,000, so the only excuse we have for not supporting them is ourselves.

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