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Southern is a unique organization that combines the vision, passion, and creativity of non-profit organizations with the stability and permanence of America’s largest and most profitable rural development bank.
Southern’s family of companies includes traditional community banks and 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations. The banking organizations are long-term members of their respective communities with the ability to influence both public and private policy initiatives and create local, state, and national support for Southern’s community development work.
Because of this unique public-private partnership, Southern is able to access both the grassroots individuals most affected by regional change as well as the community leadership base of professional, civic, and governmental institutions that traditional non-profit organizations are unable to reach. Southern’s goal is to organize all of the above in a manner that promotes action and stimulates fundamental community change.
Southern has three transformational 20-year goals for the communities it serves:
The goals are to reduce the gap between the county and national averages by 50% in the following metrics:
- Poverty Rate
- Employment Rate
- Educational Attainment
Focused and Comprehensive
Since its formation in 1986, Southern has originated over $2 billion in development loans—primarily to individuals and organizations in the poorest areas of the United States. The $2 billion milestone is unmatched in rural development, but Southern considers it to be just the beginning. Southern understands that access to capital—both for rural institutions and for rural families—is critically important. However, we have found that even $2 billion of invested capital is insufficient to drive fundamental community change without such capital investments being focused into specific geographic areas and matched to comprehensive community engagement in education, housing, health care, leadership development, and economic development.
Southern believes that successful regional change must be initiated by communities and that such change will be driven by anchor communities in the region. Anchor communities maintain a critical mass of business, industry, and population and have the potential to attract and promote economic activity and growth.
Anchor communities are an economic and cultural force within a 50-mile radius that support and transform smaller communities in their sphere of influence. Regional change is possible only when several anchor communities can combine to drive revitalization in the larger region.
Because of this realization, Southern executed a major shift in its development strategy and now concentrates its efforts in targeted areas of Arkansas and Mississippi, with the intent of effecting regional change, community by community. Specific emphasis is placed on strengthening existing anchor communities.
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