Investments in Whitehaven are on the rise as banks move forward with new facilities and programs targeting homeownership and small businesses.
Pinnacle Financial Partners opened a branch on Elvis Presley Boulevard in March focused on addressing small business needs in the Whitehaven community. BancorpSouth, which opened a mortgage center on Raines Road, has a goal to invest $4 million with residents interested in purchasing homes in the Memphis area.
The Whitehaven location is one of two new loan production offices Pinnacle opened in March. The Whitehaven office is located at 4403 Elvis Presley Boulevard, and the other office serves Raleigh at 2235 Whitten Road.
“These offices bring us closer to communities that previously didn’t have easy access to Pinnacle services,” Herman Strickland, head of Pinnacle’s client advisory group in Memphis, said in a press release. “Our goal is to support small businesses and home ownership from these offices and also to build on the incredible momentum we have in the market.”
The Whitehaven office occupies more than 3,000 square feet in a retail building just a mile and a half from Graceland.
Tracy Ellis, senior vice president and financial advisor with Pinnacle, said the bank will assist the community with small business loans and financial literacy classes.
The new Whitehaven facility houses a learning center that will help residents with credit repair and other tools dealing with financial literacy. The center will offer courses on financial stewardship for entrepreneurs. The learning center will also be open to community organizations that need meeting space, which is a desire that Ellis said residents expressed when she started researching the neighborhood.
“When I got here, I walked around on foot from business to business introducing myself and asking them, 'What do you need?'” she said. “There are a lot of new and old businesses in the area. They are all excited that we’re coming and we’re interested in helping them succeed. They said, ‘We need some help over here.’”
According to the US Census, as of 2015 there are just over 800 businesses in ZIP code 38116, which Whitehaven mostly encompasses. Of those businesses, 77 percent have fewer than 20 employees.
Ellis said that Pinnacle hopes to reach that population by providing resources to Whitehaven's small business community.
Johnnie Owens, Ruth Phillips Corey Mills (L to R) outside the Dr. Benjamin L. Hooks Job Corps center in Whitehaven. The BancorpSouth employees taught a group of 22 Job Corps students about home ownership. (Brandon Dahlberg)
“There are so many great residents here — longtime residents — and we want to come out and show our support. We are mainly located in East Memphis. We’re trying to evolve … we also plan to have an office in the Hickory Hill area and on Union soon.”
Sam King, senior vice president and area manager for Pinnacle, said the bank is attracted to Whitehaven because of the potential buying power and growth in the community, which has nearly 50,000 residents.
“Honestly, there are a lot of great folks in Whitehaven and lots of mortgage and business opportunities in Whitehaven, and we want to be part of the opportunity,” he said. “There are several pockets of Memphis that we don’t pay as much attention to as we should. Pinnacle is very much in tune with trying to help our communities out.”
Tina Pillow, BancorpSouth’s Whitehaven branch manager, said her bank’s big push is the mortgage center.
“That’s one of the things that people just feel like that they can’t have, and it’s a dream we want everyone to have,” she said.
The Census American Community Survey reports an estimated 18,981 housing units in 38116 with a little more than 25 percent of housing units vacant, compared to 12 percent in the state of Tennessee.
Located at 1222 East Raines Road in Whitehaven, BancorpSouth’s $4 million dollar Max Access assistance program provides mortgage loan assistance of up to $7,250 that can be applied toward down payments, principal reduction, closing costs, insurance premiums and interest rate buy-down or reduction.
In 2016 the Justice Department and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau reached a settlement with BancorpSouth Bank to resolve allegations of mortgage discrimination against African-Americans in the Memphis metro area. Part of the settlement is for BancorpSouth to invest $4 million in minority neighborhoods in Memphis.
“BancorpSouth has been expanding our presence in Memphis, and we now have four locations. The Whitehaven area is experiencing new growth and multi-million dollar development activity, including the boulevard enhancements, new hotel at Graceland, expansion of the Methodist hospital and other projects in this large and vibrant community," said Morgan Webb Files, vice president and marketing director for the bank, said when questioned about the settlement.
Pillow said the MaxAccess assistance money does not have to be paid back and can be used in combination with other programs.
“We searched for areas to make an impact in and we noticed that home buying assistance was a need in the community. A lot of customers are excited that we’re finally over here,” she said.
Pillow said the bank also has a partnership with Operation Hope where the organizations teach people about credit and they host credit repair programs at the Whitehaven Library every other weekend. They also do financial literacy outreach to teens at Whitehaven High School.
“A lot of people only have credit issues where they may have messed up on one thing, and it just hangs out there. We’re seeing a lot of appointments now where clients just want to get their credit up so they can qualify for homeownership,” she said.
“One of the things I like to tell people is to establish an account. One of the things people go through during the mortgage process is let me see your bank statements. If you don’t even have that, it makes the process hard. Setting up a checking and savings account is so important.”
Both BancorpSouth and Pinnacle have second-chance checking programs to help people set up bank accounts. One of the obstacles they face is people asking, what’s the catch?
“There is no catch. We’re invested in the community and the best way to be invested is to give,” Pillow said. “We’re not here to take advantage of people.”