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Feds Intervene in West Dayton Banking Controversy

WYSO/Lewis Wallace

Federal regulators held a public meeting Monday to talk about banking services in West Dayton. The closing of the Westown PNC branch this summer has turned a large part of West Dayton into a “banking desert”; from the former site of the bank, there are no bank branches within a two-mile radius.

At the crowded meeting, David Greer with the Northwest Priority Board called the departure of banks from the neighborhood “redlining.”

“It is a form of discrimination, and this is something that we as a people have fought long and hard for decades against,” he said.

The meeting was convened by representatives of the federal Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), and it was attended by Dayton City Manager Tim Riordan, mayoral candidates A.J. Wagner and Nan Whaley, community and religious leaders, and several dozen representatives of banks and credit unions, including PNC.

Advocates say the scarcity of financial services in the mostly-black area leaves people vulnerable to predatory lenders and pricey check cashers, and makes economic development and home ownership more difficult. Similar accusations have arisen this year in other communities affected by major bank closures.

PNC says it closed its doors in West Dayton due to a rise in digital banking; earlier this year it announced plans to shutter 200 branches. The company won’t say how it chose which branches to close, and PNC branches remain open in downtown Dayton, Kettering, West Carollton and Oakwood, among other areas. PNC closed branches this year in Beavercreek and downtown Springfield.

“While bricks and mortar are important, that’s not all a bank is to a community,” said Peg Moertl with PNC. “We do invest in Dayton, we do invest in West Dayton, and we will continue to do so.”

One audience member thanked PNC for funding a preschool program. But West Dayton resident Julia Capers said she thinks investing in kids is not enough when businesses don’t stay in the community.

“When they grow up, and go to college, they leave Dayton, because the opportunities here are so small,” Capers said. “And every business that leaves is another nail that’s in that coffin.”

The OCC and a representative of the FDIC who led the meeting said they can’t prevent a bank branch closing, but they encouraged other banks to work with community members and businesses to fill in the gap.

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