The W.K. Kellogg Foundation of Battle Creek, Mich., one of the 10 largest foundations in the country, has made an $11 million investment in Southern Bancorp, the Arkadelphia bank said Wednesday.
Southern will use the funds to enhance its efforts to revitalize rural communities in the Mississippi Delta. Mississippi is one of three areas of focus for the foundation, including Michigan and New Mexico, said Phil Baldwin, Southern’s chairman and chief executive officer.
“They want to help us essentially replicate the community-planning work we do in the state of Mississippi,” Baldwin said.
Southern, the largest rural-development bank in the country with $1.1 billion in assets, is well-known for its efforts to revive Helena-West Helena and Phillips County. Southern has spent millions of dollars over more than six years, much donated by the Walton Family Foundation, to spark improvement in Helena-West Helena.
The Kellogg Foundation, which has about $7.5 billion in assets, bought $5 million in Southern shares and deposited another $6 million in a certificate of deposit to assist the bank in its community-development activities. Kellogg bought the shares two years ago and the certificate of deposit last fall but chose not to publicize the investments until Wednesday, said Tony Berkley, the foundation’s deputy director of education and learning.
“Southern is exceptionally well-run,” said Berkley, who is serving on Southern’s board of directors. “They do a great job of combining their loans with nonprofit work. They have made a measurable difference in Helena-West Helena. Their interest in the Delta very much mirrors our own interests.”
Southern hopes the commitment by the Kellogg Foundation will help the bank receive more investments or grants from other similar organizations.
“From my perspective, having a relationship with the Kellogg Foundation is even more important than the cash infusion,” Baldwin said. “This partnership is nationally significant for us.”
Berkley agreed the partnership should help Southern.
“We do hope this raises the awareness of Southern, but they already are well-known,” Berkley said. “We do believe that this could have an effect on other people’s investments.”