Book Review: The End of Loyalty

By Dennis West, president of Northern Initiatives and CEDAM board member

I heard about an event that featured Rick Wartzman in Washington DC, and it was about his book, The End of Loyalty. I was not able to attend, but the Aspen Institute’s description was enough of a tease that I got the book.

What Wartzman describes is the transition of work and large corporations from pre-World War II through today. And, as a baby boomer, it is full of my lived experiences.

The End of Loyalty by Rick Wartzman book cover, showing a worker sitting at a desk on top of a construction belt running over a chair.

Photo Credit: publicradiotulsa.org

The book traces the adjustments made by large and growing corporations after the Second World War and the significant accommodations associated with putting GI’s back to work. He does a good job of describing the social implications and the context of Free World v Communism so defining of the post-war era. In a heroic way, corporations brought about retirement benefits and health insurance for their workers. These opportunities, coupled with GI benefits that supported education and home buying for some of our troops, boosted the standard of living for many of our parents. However, many of the same corporations and governments offered a darker side of thwarting opportunity through practices of racial and sexual discrimination.

The diminishment of those so called “good jobs” has huge implications for current policy. Corporations that once offered significant benefits have used offshoring and technology to keep prices low, which has consumer benefits while hurting the availability of the “good jobs.” The shift in good jobs has coincided with a growing percentage of Americans who are now “contract workers.” The new truth is as we create policies that support employer based benefits of retirement and health care, we are destined to miss a growing proportion of Americans.

I would recommend this read for the sake of nostalgia, and for the implications of what it means for the American worker today, and in the future.

Michigan Legislature Could Usher in New Era of Investment by Restoring State Historic Tax Credit

Written by Nancy Finegood, executive director, Michigan Historic Preservation Network

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Seven years ago Michigan lost its historic tax credit—one of its most vital and valuable tools in preserving historic buildings—that, in its 12-year lifespan, brought billions of dollars in economic impact to our state.

We’re working on bringing it back—and we need your help to do it.

We’ve already jumped one major hurdle when the State Senate overwhelmingly approved the reinstatement of the state historic tax credit by a 36-2 vote this past December. We are now moving on to the House, where we expect the legislation to be taken up in the House Tax Policy Committee in mid-March or early April. We are asking developers, preservationists, municipal leaders and other supporters to join our coalition and to tell their legislators to support Senate Bill 469 and House Bill 5178.

The historic tax credit, which was a crucial part of restoration projects everywhere from Detroit to Menominee, was phased out along with other tax credits in 2011—all victims of the State’s ongoing budget crisis. Michigan is now one of only 15 states that does not offer tax credits to help save historic properties. The federal credit can be used only for income producing properties, not residential properties, so the state tax credit is crucial in helping save the many irreplaceable homes that dot our state.

This puts Michigan at a severe disadvantage when it comes to attracting development, investment, jobs and residents. And, Michigan developers are taking their business to nearby states that have historic tax credits to develop projects.

The value and importance of restoring this tax credit cannot be understated. Between 2001 and 2005, Michigan’s historic tax credit helped spur more than $902 million in private investment, generating a total economic impact of more than $1.93 billion across our state and creating more than 22,000 jobs. That’s nearly $2 billion invested in just five years. During that same four-year period, for every $1 of credit issued, Michigan’s economy benefited from an additional $11.43 in economic impact.

Smaller communities across our state stand to gain the most from this credit. Though we have seen successful rehabs in some of Michigan’s larger cities in recent years, many of our smaller communities have not. Because smaller communities often have a harder time attracting the same level of investment or financing, the tax credit can be the difference-maker between whether projects happen or not.

Please stand with us as we push to return Michigan’s historic tax credit and save our many architectural treasures for future generations while bringing more investment and economic prosperity to our state. Visit www.miimpact.org or www.mhpn.org for more information!

Children’s Savings Accounts (CSAs): Expanding Post-Secondary Options

Written by Brian Rakovitis, manager of financial empowerment initiatives

row of pink piggy banks on a tableChildren’s Savings Accounts, or CSAs, have been well documented in their effect to increase college attendance and completion, as well as to reduce student loan debt among low- and moderate-income students as compared to their economic peers. Prosperity Now’s study also reports that they have been proven to help foster a personal belief among students that they too can achieve more in their post-secondary studies.

In a study published by JAMA, it was found that there is an immediate positive effect on social-emotional development that may be carried forward to improvements in long-term development, leading to better performance in schooling and other important life tasks.

Students that have resources for their future educational goals recognize a path forward and are therefore motivated to achieve their goals as compared to others that do not have assets. Prosperity Now found that having $1-$499 in a CSA meant that students are three times more likely to attend college and four times more likely to graduate from college than those without savings.

Now, many CSA programs direct these behaviors into attending college, and rightfully so, however, some CSA programs have started to think about how they can provide students with additional post-secondary options to meet individual needs.

When we consider that students with CSAs are seeing a positive effect on social-emotional development, including demonstrating high-levels of self-control, goal setting and long-term planning, these skills can be useful in other post-secondary career advancement avenues as well.

CSA programs may want to consider allowing for withdrawals for expenses beyond college such as skilled trades programs, small-business development and career training. By building these options into the program, we don’t dilute the idea of college attainment; instead we offer students a variety of paths to their post-secondary achievement that might encourage more students to participate who might otherwise not have considered a CSA.

If you are considering developing a CSA program in your community, want to learn more about CSAs or are interested in applying for our CSA Replication RFP, please contact Brian Rakovitis at rakovitis@cedam.info.

Keeping up with the Corps Part 2: “Success”

Most of our AmeriCorps members are halfway through their term of service, and at this point they have had a tremendous variety of experiences within their own projects and across the organizations around the state. From Detroit to Ludington, our members have learned and grown through serving their communities. We caught up with the same AmeriCorps members from Keeping up with the Corps Part 1 to hear their reflections on “success.”

Jaime Junior, Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency

Success for me is an action word. It’s not simply one item or moment in time, but instead is a continuous thing. That’s the message that I pass along to the people I serve: that life is a marathon, not a sprint.

My service has been successful so far in that everyone that has taken my workshops has walked away with something that helps them manage their finances. I have been able to clarify myths about working while disabled and to provide clients with resources for affordable housing.

One tool that I’ve found helpful during my service has been the SMART goals concept. “SMART goals” is an approach to making goals more achievable by making them Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound.

Kate Lietz, Lakeshore Food Club

Blog- success- kate picWhen the Lakeshore Food Club opened in October 2017, the goal was to assist 300 local families with their basic needs. Since then we’ve grown to more than 800 member households. Though we certainly don’t measure success by how many people we’re serving, I think success can be found in our organization’s ability to adjust to the overwhelming need in this community. We haven’t done it alone—many partners have stepped up with huge donations of cash, hard-to-get food and nonfood items and, most importantly, time.

We like to say we’re a grocery store run on donations and volunteers, and managing the constant flow of volunteers, members, donors and product is an enormous job! One particular area of success for me has been recruiting and training volunteers who now run much of the day-to-day activity of the Food Club. It’s great to be involved with every part of what’s happening here, but it’s even greater to be able to step back and have time to focus on building community partnerships and developing fundraising opportunities.

Making the time to give attention to our existing and potential donors is critical to the long-term success of the Food Club, and I’m excited to be a part of building these relationships. Currently one of my projects is planning a fundraiser: The Ludington Lake Jump. Our goal is to raise $50,000 for the Food Club, and I have no doubt that we’ll also be raising huge awareness for this service in the community. Another small success I’m building toward is creating a partnership with our community garden in Ludington to connect the Food Club to fresh produce while also connecting more people to the skills and knowledge of growing food for themselves.

Amber Weichec, United Way of Saginaw County

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To me, our VITA program is hugely successful right now. Even though we had some major setbacks at the very beginning of my service, things have been going as smoothly as I could have hoped for. Training was stressful to organize, but as soon as we got there it went off without a hitch. It was the same thing with the opening day/week of our VITA sites: it was rough getting everything set up and organized ahead of time but the moment that we opened, everything ran smoothly. Our Show Me the Money Day event has yet to actually occur, but I’m honestly not worried because I know that we are as prepared and organized as possible.

I owe a whole lot of my success to the people at my host site. In the handful of months that I’ve been serving at United Way of Saginaw County, I have never once dreaded going in to work because I know that even if I have a loaded schedule someone at the office will be there to put a smile on my face. On top of that, these past few weeks have been absolutely crazy with the VITA and Show Me the Money Day events happening at nearly the same time, and the team I coach in my free time had their State Championship this past weekend. I’ve had so much help from everyone at the office, especially with Show Me the Money Day, and I couldn’t have gotten everything done without them. I am incredibly grateful to the United Way of Saginaw County staff.

Ryan Bond, Grand Haven Main Street

As I now approach the halfway point to my AmeriCorps service year, I realize that getting out into the community is the most significant key to unlocking doors to success. I would not have been able to formulate quality proposals for multiple grants without leaving the office to pursue potential community stakeholders. I did not wait for them to come to me: I reached out to seek advice and feedback from others.

I firmly believe AmeriCorps members should be actively engaged in the fabric of the community. Community engagement is the most crucial component of my role this year, and from my current perspective the only method of success in the future will be to venture out for more community exchanges of ideas. Success does not merely come to you; one must be compelled to endeavor to seek diligently in order to find it.

High Quality Tax Filing Services without the High Prices

The old adage “you get what you pay for” may apply to most things in life, however when it comes to filing your taxes, the reverse is often true. The fact is, when it comes to filing your taxes, if you are not careful, you could end up losing some of your hard-earned money by paying an unqualified and unregulated person to file your tax return.

1040 tax formWhile some tax professionals register with IRS and are credentialed—enrolled agents, certified public accountants and attorneys are required to meet professional standards—sixty percent of paid tax preparers are unregulated and have no training or educational requirements. In Michigan, anyone can hang out a shingle and charge whatever they want to do taxes regardless of their training, expertise or ability. This lack of regulation leaves taxpayers vulnerable to unscrupulous preparers charging hundreds of dollars to have simple tax returns prepared.

According to the National Society of Accountants, the average American family pays anywhere from $159 – $447 on tax preparation. As I have learned in my annual MEIC client interviews, many pay even more to have their very simple and basic tax returns filed.

Many big-box tax preparation companies charge by the form and tack on additional fees or hard-sell services such as offering same day “refunds” or issuing the refund on a debit card. These same day “refunds” are particularly troublesome, since they are actually refund anticipation loans (RALs) using the projected refund as collateral. RALs often cost more than a 200% interest rate to receive money a few days sooner than the week or so it typically takes the IRS to issue a refund (nine out of ten refunds are issued by the IRS within 21 days with many coming in just a few days). But with a RAL, if the refund doesn’t cover the loan (again, it’s a loan, not the actual refund), the taxpayer must come up with the difference or risk even more fees from the preparer. Additionally, since there are no regulations in Michigan for paid tax preparers, there are also no price disclosure requirements like you have when you get a loan or have your car serviced, leaving many taxpayers with sticker shock after the preparer has finished their return.

There is good news, though. Most people can keep more of their hard-earned money and file their taxes for free!

If your household brings in under $66,000 you can prepare and file your federal taxes online for free. Earn less than $54,000 and you can get in-person help through a voluntary income tax assistance (VITA) site or a tax counseling for the elderly (TCE) preparer.

Every tax preparer at a VITA or TCE site is certified by the IRS and trained to do federal, state and local taxes.  This results in rejection rates as low as two to ten percent which is much lower than the rate of paid tax preparer returns (a 2014 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that filings by paid preparers were riddled with errors) and doesn’t cost you hundreds of dollars, either.

Last year 101,000 Michigan residents utilized these free tax services. If you or someone you know is among the 70 percent of Americans who will receive a refund this year, why don’t you give a free tax preparer a try? It won’t cost you anything and, chances are, it’ll be as good (if not better) than paid service and will enable you to keep your money where it belongs—in your pocket.

For more information, visit Michiganfreetaxhelp.org or dial 2-1-1.

Congress Is Voting on a Bill That Could Make Debt Traps Legal Again

This article originally appeared at TalkPoverty.org 

Written by Joe Valenti and Jessica AcMoody 


Today, the House of Representatives votes on an end run around state consumer protection laws. If it passes, the bill would overturn state efforts to stop payday lenders from charging triple-digit annual interest rates and creating consumer debt traps that can turn a $1,000 loan into a $40,000 debt.

The bill—misleadingly titled “Protecting Consumers’ Access to Credit Act of 2017”—claims to be a response to a recent federal court decision in a case called Madden v. Midland. Ms. Madden opened a credit card; when she fell behind on payments, it was sold to Midland Funding, a debt collector. Midland tried to charge her an interest rate of 27 percent, higher than New York’s legal limit of 25 percent, and the judge ruled that while banks are not subject to state interest rate caps—consistent with rulings going back several decades that led to the rapid growth of credit cards—nonbanks, such as a debt collector, are. The decision was reached by the Second Circuit, and only applies to New York, Connecticut and Vermont.

In the bill, both houses of Congress have proposed a so-called “Madden fix” that would declare that any valid loan made by a bank stays valid if that loan is later sold or transferred to a nonbank. On its face, that sounds fair—until it’s clear that this is exactly the business model, sometimes called rent-a-bank, that payday lenders have historically used to get around state consumer protection laws. Under rent-a-bank, in a state that caps annual interest rates at 36 percent or less—a level considered the maximum for responsible lending for about a century—a loan shark shut out of the market can just partner with a national bank that’s subject to no limits on interest rates at all, and charge consumers more than 300 percent annual interest or more. This practice goes back two decades, and federal banking regulators have been grappling with it just as long.

Getting around state laws also means skirting the will of Americans that have elected to keep predatory lenders out of their states. Fifteen states and the District of Columbia—representing more than 90 million Americans—have set interest rate caps to keep payday lenders at bay. South Dakota joined this club in 2016 with a ballot initiative receiving more than 76 percent of the vote, despite confusing, contradictory language on the ballots. Seventy-two percent of Montanans voted for a cap in 2010. And faith leaders across the country have decried the practice—some even using their own community assistance funds to bail out borrowers trapped in debt.

Even in states where payday lending is not restricted with a rate cap, forty-two states have interest rate caps in place for some other types of loans, such as installment loans, which are generally paid back over a longer period of time. It’s no surprise that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) 2017 payday lending rule specifically called out rate caps as providing better protections than what it could do itself to deal with debt trap lending. (The Dodd-Frank Act, which created the CFPB, specifically bans the agency from capping rates itself.)

Taking away states’ ability to pass and enforce laws that protect their residents from loansharking might not be so devastating if a tough federal standard existed in their place. But this January, CFPB Acting Director Mick Mulvaney delayed the final payday rule, which only dealt with certain aspects of predatory lending, with an eye toward weakening or scrapping it altogether. New Trump-appointed leadership at the banking regulators are not likely to scrutinize rent-a-bank partnerships the way past regulators have, and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, one of these regulators, reversed its restrictions on banks themselves making payday loans last year. The closest Congress has come to taking decisive action to help vulnerable borrowers in recent years was passing the bipartisan Military Lending Act in 2007, which put in place a 36 percent rate cap on servicemembers and their families—and still only survived an effort to weaken it in 2015 by one House committee vote.

To be sure, some nonbank lenders who do not make payday loans have argued that the Madden decision makes it harder for even responsible startups to lend nationwide because investors will not support them if loans may be invalidated under state law. But they have other options, including seeking a federal nonbank charter or simply ensuring that they comply with state law. Supporting a nationwide market should not mean forcing open the doors to financial exploitation by allowing lending without limits.

Should the House bill pass this week, it then goes to the Senate, where a bipartisan group of senators has teamed up to co-sponsor the same bill. In an era of massive tax cuts for the rich and devastating benefit cuts for everyone else, this is merely the latest attempt from Congress to tilt the financial playing field further in favor of corporations and the wealthy, making it even harder for working families to get by.

LINC UP’s First Friday Event Brings Neighbors Together with Music, Food and Fun

By Camille Allen, communications intern

Live jazz, soul food, spoken word and poetry: this is what any given first Friday of the month can look like for CEDAM member Linc Up, an organization that once primarily focused on affordable housing but has expanded to become a community revitalization agency in Grand Rapids.  

The Mitch Myers Band performs on Friday, November 3, 2017 at LINC UP's First Friday event

The Mitch Myers Band performs on Friday, November 3, 2017 at Linc Up’s First Friday event

For the past six years Linc Up has hosted an event on the first Friday of every month where neighbors, friends and coworkers alike can get together and socialize in a relaxed environment. The organization saw a demand for something that wasn’t being met by anyone else in Grand Rapids. What started as an idea is now a monthly happening, drawing in a couple hundred people to each event.

“Grand Rapids just does not have African American oriented entertainment options for professionals,” said Jeremy DeRoo, executive director of Linc Up. “We wanted to create a professional environment where you can run into people in an informal setting, meet some new folks or have a place where you can reconnect with old friends that is an authentic experience.”

Though First Friday is a night of entertainment and socializing, it also serves as a way to change economic patterns in Grand Rapids. By increasing social connectivity, the event aims to bring people together and further build the networks that residents naturally have, and a great place to start is with good food, good music and a good environment.

DeRoo noted that the organization has seen projects set in motion and business move forward because of the connections people have made at First Friday.

LINC UP Executive Director Jeremy DeRoo makes an announcement at the November 3, 2017 First Friday event

Linc Up Executive Director Jeremy DeRoo makes an announcement at the November 3, 2017 First Friday event

Linc Up centers all of its efforts around four core ideals. The first is Who You Know, which deals largely with the networks that form within communities that have a positive effect on engagement and development. The second is What You Know. Focusing on education, the organization provides leadership training services. The third core concept is Where You Live, which includes Linc Up’s affordable housing developments and neighborhood revitalization efforts. The fourth and final concept is What You Make, which centers around business development. Linc Up assists businesses and programs throughout the city and provides co-workspace at an affordable price. These core ideals intersect to foster resilient neighborhoods.

“Neighborhood revitalization is important because where you come from contributes to where you’re going in your life, and some neighborhoods produce different results,” DeRoo said. “Some perpetuate success for the kids who grow up there, the companies that open there and the people living there while others aren’t because they don’t have the necessary opportunities available for their residents.”

DeRoo notes that the organization’s name is derived from its dedication to restoring connections, and one way they stay true to this is through referrals. Last year Linc Up connected more than one hundred residents to businesses in Grand Rapids. Not only do they refer residents for employment, but the organization also connects residents to nonprofits that offer services from which they can benefit, acting as an important channel in the community.

“Grand Rapids has a ton of great nonprofits, so our work isn’t about building programs because most of the time these programs do exist,” said DeRoo, “they just don’t always reach the people that need it the most.”

After the general election night forum, LINC UP wrapped up the First Friday event with live jazz and spoken word by Antonio "Tone" Taylor

After the general election night forum, Linc Up wrapped up the First Friday event with live jazz and spoken word by Antonio “Tone” Taylor

Linc Up is in a unique position where they have the opportunity to connect. They connect residents to the nonprofits that aim to help them, they connect residents to businesses and the most important, overlooked connection is that amongst people. Connected neighbors lead to friendships and partnerships that create a larger professional network in the area. First Friday is just one way they continue to foster connections, and it has been working exceptionally well so far.

Government Shuts Down and Reopens, DACA Up in the Air

Written by Jessica AcMoody, senior policy specialist and Alexis Puente, policy intern

Understanding the Government Shutdown

The federal government shut down at midnight on Friday, January 19 after Congress failed to reach an agreement on the FY 2018 federal budget. The Continuing Resolution (CR) to temporarily extend government funding until February 16 did not receive the required 60 votes amid a bitter dispute over negotiations over the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and border security. The DACA program offers protection for nearly 700,000 immigrants from deportation. These protections will expire on March 5 unless Congress comes to an agreement.

While House Republicans passed a bill on Thursday to fund the government for four weeks and extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for six years, Democrats wanted the CR to include a comprehensive immigration deal that included DACA protections. Without that included, the Senate could not get the 60 votes needed to pass the resolution.

Over the weekend a caucus of moderates from both political parties came up with a compromise to extend government spending until February 8. In return for Democrat support, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agreed to take up an immigration bill with DACA protections and allow an open amendment process. McConnell’s promise doesn’t guarantee that the immigration bill will reach the House floor let alone pass the Senate.

The compromise bill passed the Senate on Monday afternoon with a 81-18 vote, the House by a 266-150 vote and was signed by President Trump.

Both Republicans and Democrats are largely divided by party lines, neither willing to compromise. It will be difficult for the Republicans and Democrats to agree on immigration reform, including the legal status of DACA recipients and whether or not that includes granting citizenship.

What’s Next?

According to NPR, “In statement on Monday, Trump said that with the government on the path to reopening, the administration would work on immigration legislation — but ‘only if it’s good for our country.’”

The road ahead remains difficult with only a few weeks to reach consensus on major outstanding issues including disaster relief and opioid funding, and overall budget spending levels. And unlike the Senate, the House made no promises to take up immigration legislation.

A Day On, Not a Day Off for CEDAM AmeriCorps Members

MLK-Wayne Metro (4)

Legislation to establish Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a federal holiday was signed in 1983, and was first observed in 1986. It was in 1994, however, that the MLK Day of Service was established as a way to transform Dr. King’s teachings into community action that strengthens communities across the country. Participating in a day on, not a day off, CEDAM’s AmeriCorps members served their communities in Michigan through leading or participating in a variety of service projects. The Michigan Community Service Commission (MCSC) proposes focus areas for service projects that are addressed by our broad range of events coordinated by Michigan Financial Opportunity Corps and Rural Opportunity VISTA members.

The preschool class of Mrs. Stephanie Schneider at Carson City-Crystal Lower Elementary school dedicated the day of service to decorating and donating lunch bags to support fellow students. CEDAM MFOC member Nikki Kwiatkowski, serving at United Way Montcalm-Ionia Counties, was joined by ReadingCorps member Marinna Jones as they led the activity and a lesson on Dr. King’s legacy and food insecurity in the community. The bags were donated for after-school meals that are offered to students who qualify for free or reduced-cost lunches by IM Kids 3rd Meal. This event was supported by a grant from the MCSC.

Young and old community members enjoyed public exhibits presenting the experiences of mid-20th century African American life at the Muskegon Museum of Arts, where Rural Opportunity VISTA member Catherine Sliwinski served as a greeter. Advocate and artist Winfred Rembert’s exhibit of carved and dyed leather presents vivid scenes of busy streets, dancing and picking cotton from his memories of childhood and prison in Southern Roots: The Paintings of Winfred Rembert. The stories of the great migration to northern factories was shown throughout the day in the documentary Up From the Bottoms. Crafts and guided tours were offered to guests for one of the museum’s most highly attended events of the year. Catherine was able to meet other AmeriCorps members as well as residents in the community where she is serving to coordinate a county-wide Children’s Savings Account (CSA) program. More details on the exhibit and images of Rembert’s pieces are available here.

Volunteers at the Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency in service!

Volunteers at the Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency in service!

Approximately 100 volunteers supported the Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency’s 2018 MLK Day service event, where MFOC members coordinated many different service projects. With grant support from MCSC, more than 300 warming and hygiene kits were packaged for people experiencing homelessness, classrooms were organized and sanitized, youth had fun growing their financial education and 30 Head Start families received smoke detectors. Numerous organizations partnered with CEDAM’s AmeriCorps and Wayne Metro: Baymont Inn & Suites, GM Team Cares, Playworks, Starfish Family Services, Cass Technical High School Honors Society, Out-Wayne County Homeless Services Coalition and the Detroit Fire Department. This project honored Dr. King’s legacy by addressing critical focus areas for community improvement.

Community members and Rural Opportunity VISTA members discuss civil rights and the film "Detroit" in the Mason County District Library.

Community members and Rural Opportunity VISTA members discuss civil rights and the film “Detroit” in the Mason County District Library.

During the evening, the Mason County District Library hosted a public screening and discussion in collaboration with four of the Rural Opportunity VISTA members in the surrounding counties. Librarians suggested the 2017 film “Detroit” and the team of VISTA members prepared and led discussion around the themes that connect the events in the movie to Dr. King’s activism. The film tells the story of the Algiers Motel abuse and killings and the acquittal of the police officers responsible. Four of the attendees lived in Detroit preceding and during the events and shared fascinating personal histories of their experiences.


Introducing New CEDAM Team Member Ben Dowd

Ben PictureCEDAM is excited to announce Ben Dowd as its new Controller! Dowd will manage CEDAM’s finances, including grant and budget management for CEDAM’s programs, as well as provide human resources support to the CEDAM team.


Ben has been working in banking for 15 years, 12 of which have been spent as a manager at PNC Bank. He spent most of his time in the Saginaw/Bay City area and moved to Lansing in 2015 to manage PNC Bank branches in Lansing.

“Through my employment at PNC, which is cool because PNC is a partner with CEDAM, I’ve actually been involved in Show Me the Money Day events as well as VITA tax preparation locations mainly in the Lansing and the Saginaw Area,” Dowd said.

In his most recent position with PNC, Dowd not only managed his team of bankers and the day-to-day operations, but worked on community development initiatives as well. This entailed getting to know the businesses and organizations involved in the community, acquiring new businesses to work with the bank and building relationships with key partners.

Outside of work, Dowd was on the board of the nonprofit Perceptions in Saginaw, and now sits on the board of Lansing’s Old Town Commercial Association (OTCA), serving as the treasurer as well as sitting on several committees. Dowd has also been involved in Lansing 501 events, Meals on Wheels and has worked closely with the City of Mason’s Chamber.


“A lot of my passion lies with working in communities and really being involved in the nonprofit world,” Dowd said. “A lot of my time outside of my nine to five job is already spent doing those things in our community, so the draw was a natural fit for me.”

Dowd is looking forward to the opportunity to expand his work with communities and finding ways to help them achieve their determined success. “If they have a plan and things established, what can CEDAM do to help boost that and what I can do specifically in my role to help them see success?”

Finally, Dowd is looking forward to increasing his involvement in CEDAM’s programs. “The opportunities are endless… I  am super excited for a chance to join CEDAM and be a part of the work that they’re already doing and will continue to do in the future.”