Louis Giambelluca: Bank of America helping believers reach their goals

Henry Jiménez, Lucas Giambelluca, and Amanda LaGrange

“We know it takes more than a good idea to start and keep a business running. My teammates and I in the Twin Cities want to make sure every big believer has a opportunity to achieve and reach their goals.”  Signed, Lucas Giambelluca, President, Bank of America Twin Cities.

The Conversation with Al McFarlane last week lauded the impressive work and growth of Bank of America Twin Cities. The program featured the two 2022 recipients of Bank of America Twin Cities Neighborhood Builders Program for non-profits: The Latino Economic Development Center (LEDC – MN) and Re-powered.

“The Neighborhood Builders Program program is one of our signature programs for Bank of America.  We focus on trying to figure out how we can advance economic mobility and develop nonprofit leaders. We need communities that are thriving and sustainable in order to help our state’s cities grow,” Giambelluca said.  “One of the ways we accomplish that is through this program.  Neighborhood Builders Program provides the grant recipient nonprofits with critical tools to develop their leaders along with $200,000 of unrestricted funding. Bank of America has been doing this program for 18 years now.  Nationally, we are in 92 communities, have worked with 1,500 nonprofits, and have invested more than $300 million dollars in these organizations.  We started the program in Minnesota in 2004 and have worked with 14 recipients with the two newest ones recently brought on board.  That’s been about $3 million we’ve invested.  We realized early on that we will only be as successful as the communities we’re in.”

A native of Chicago, Giambelluca said he married into a St. Paul family.  Banking has been his business for 20 years, and no matter the location or position, his core values remain the same.

“What can I do to make an impact on the communities my profession serves?  If I’m doing the right thing to make sure things are equitable, then everybody wins,” he said.  “We’re removing economic barriers. We’re figuring out ways to help small businesses succeed. We’re making sure that everybody has a chance to be successful in their role, in their community, and do something they love. I couldn’t be happier to have this year’s grantees be a part of our Neighborhood Builders family.”

Henry Jiménez leads Minnesota’s Latino Economic Development Center (www.LEDCMN.com) “We focus on Latino and other immigrant entrepreneurs and small businesses. We want to make sure they can start their business or/and expand  them,” Jiménez said. “For that, they need access to capital.”

He said LEDC illuminates and elevates neighborhoods and residents in their collective opportunity to fuse resources and entrepreneurial desire to build intergenerational wealth for the community.

Amanda LaGrange runs Repowered, which used to be known as Tech Dump and Tech Discounts. The other 2022 Neighborhood Builder grant recipient, the non-profit seeks to align fair chances for people, planet, and technology’ by recycling and refurbishing electronics and focusing on gaining paid job opportunities and training for adults coming back into the community after incarceration.

LaGrange said she comes from a long line of Indiana farmers with French and English bloodlines.  She said her grandparents grew up during the Great Depression, so she know a bit about valuing resources.

LaGrange said she his happy to have a relationship with Bank of America Twin Cities.

“This is how you build neighborhoods,” LaGrange said.  “One person can’t do everything, so it becomes a collective of different talents.  This collective also needs financial institutions that can share their expertise and funding like Bank of America Twin Cities and Latino Economic Development Council.”

“These dollars can do really big things. We’re focused on growing the number of people that we can work with because we do see this disconnect between employers and potential employees. Employers are saying they need people to work and people with amazing talents are saying, I’m ready to work. Reentry support helps people continue to be successful in the workplace, and not only get the job, but keep the job,” she said.

“We believe that each one of us has a duty and obligation to make sure there isn’t anyone in need in our community, especially when we have everything to function in a high level quality-of-life environment,” LaGrange said.

“I wasn’t the common kid, I suppose.  I grew up playing business with a briefcase, a fake cell phone, and make-believe checks.  I did the normal things that a kid does like playing house, school, and going to parties,” she said.

LaGrange recalled becoming disillusioned by the unfortunate examples of how business has not been used for good, but too often, for corrupt purposes.

“Repowered found a way to use business as a way of addressing injustice in our communities.  I see the value in every person and in every opportunity connecting the dots and bringing value into wealth, power, and change.  Interestingly, there is a waiting list for people to come into our program.  All the relevant information needed is at www.getrepowered.org if one wants to come and apply for our Work Readiness Program or if needing to recycle or purchase refurbished electronics,” she said.

I believe that it is never too late for new beginnings.  I had grown far more confident in my skills and gifts in writing and helping teachers be the best they can be to teach children who really need them the most and now.  That willful determination has been re-enforced by the words of a very wise and forward-thinking banker and financial institutions whose success continues to grow exponentially.

The full-page color ad in “Insight News” explains why.

“In the last decade, more than 50% of all new businesses created were diverse-owned. It’s why Bank of America has taken an innovative, industry-leading approach to help fuel growth by supporting mission-focused equity funds, Community Development Financial Institutions, and Minority Depository Institutions, including Brown Venture Group.  These partners help women entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color establish and grow their businesses, create jobs, and improve financial stability in local communities across the country,” the advertisement reads.

Bank of America’s equity investment in Brown Venture Group, supports the Black-owned venture capital firm focus on BIPOC business startups.

“When the First Independence Bank which is Black-owned out of Detroit opened, we didn’t look at their entry into the financial market as competition. There were disparities akin to redlining issues and fewer capital offerings, and we needed to solve this long-standing and consistently ignored problem,” Giambelluca said.

“When we came into the financial market, we said we adamantly needed to be really present in communities that sometimes, quite frankly, get overlooked.  Bank of America had to focus on making sure we had enough retail or banking locations located where everybody can access them.  30% of our locations are located in low to moderate income neighborhoods.  In the seven years I have been with the bank, we went from one banking location to 26, and with 78 ATMs.  We have approximately 550 employees serving customers in various lines of banking expertise.  We are really proud of the work our employees are doing in giving back to the community, as well.  Since 2017, we’ve seen donations coming from our employees and matching gifts of almost $9 million. They’ve donated over 30,000 hours to working with different organizations within the community. And that’s really important,” Giambelluca said.

By Brenda Lyle-Gray, Columnist
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