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Black-Owned Bank Returns to North Omaha

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Carver Legacy Center is located at 2416 Lake Street in the historic Carver Savings and Loan Association building. (NSN News)

April 5, 2022
(Tyeisha Kosmicki – NSN News)

Carver Legacy Center, a new Black-owned and operated bank held its Grand Opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony on Monday at the 24th and Lake Street location.

A vision -- five years in the making – is founded on the strong desire to answer the community’s call for a financial institution that will assist in the launching of Black-owned businesses and provide the guidance to help those businesses scale.

Carver Legacy Center owners Yolanda and Willie Barney and Lynnell and Martin Williams recognized the need for a financial institution dedicated to helping community members attain home and business ownership. The Barneys and Williamses are working with Wende and John Kotouc of American National Bank in a joint venture. With over $8 million in assets and $3 million in loans issued, the Carver Legacy Center is off to a strong start.

The founders spoke of establishing a Black-owned bank in the heart of North Omaha being crucial to its economic growth.

“It really boils down to economics. Economics changes everything. It changes how you feel, what you can do, where you can go.  Economics changes how you react to your community. And the great communities built in this wonderful country of ours have been built around banks. They've been built around a place you could come sit down and talk to someone about how to build your credit, how to buy houses, how to get business loans, how to borrow money to farm your land. And it's great when you can walk to a place. It's great when you can get on a bicycle and come to your place. We are reopening this bank for that reason,” Martin Williams said.

Surrounded by well-wishers, Carver Legacy Center co-owner Willie Barney (center) prepares for the ribbon cutting ceremony. (Tyeisha Kosmicki – NSN News)

As the third Black-owned bank in Omaha’s history, the Carver Legacy Center is opening in the very building that housed the Carver Savings and Loan Association. As Nebraska Sunrise News reported in our Women’s History Month story on Judge Elizabeth Pittman, Carver Savings and Loan was one of the first Black-owned financial institutions in the United States.

Offering more to the community than home and business financing or savings and checking products, the Carver Legacy Center provides access to business development and startup guidance.

For example, a business owner with an idea to scale the work they are doing can set an appointment with a consultant for an initial assessment, which will define where the business currently stands while identifying the next steps towards growth.

Another service offered, called the Business Hub, helps business owners connect with the resource opportunities they need to take their business to the next level. Following a session with Carver consultants, business owners are ready to strategize with accountants and technological or human resources operations to continue advancing.

Carver Legacy Center’s goal is to have a variety of technical assistance available to aid entrepreneurs in their journey toward creating sustainable businesses.

A storefront is included in the historic building to specifically help the Black business owners of North Omaha who are hoping to break into the marketplace. Serving as an incubator, the storefront highlights the products and services of entrepreneurs and presents the opportunity for them to host retail pop-up shops that provide exposure to the community.

Carver offers classes to help people understand and build wealth. Within the last three months, 100 Black-owned businesses have completed training classes.

Martin Williams, co-owner of Carver Legacy Center, speaks with a Grand Opening attendee. (Tyeisha Kosmicki – NSN News)

Barney said that due to Carver being in the process of becoming a full-service branch with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency—an independent branch of the U.S. Department of the Treasury that charters, regulates, and supervises all national banks and federal savings associations – checking and savings accounts can be opened at American National Bank.

“Because of our partnership with American National Bank, people can open an account at any American National Bank location in the city. They can designate it as a Carver Legacy Account, and the account will be connected back to the Carver,” Barney said.

Attending the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Carver Legacy Center was a milestone event local business owner Don McPherson did not want to miss. McPherson said, “Having a Black-owned bank opened in the community is critical. It’s very important to invest in the community and see the money stay in the community to see growth.” -30-

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