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Black-Owned Texas Bank Is Expanding With A New Branch In Atlanta

Maciek Lulko/Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Atlanta's skyline

From Texas Standard.

Depending on your sense of community, and how intentional you want to be regarding whom you do business with, the ownership of your bank is not just a remote, esoteric question.

According to a Houston Chronicle report, there’s just one African-American-owned bank in Texas – Unity National Bank. Many of the people who do business there do so purposefully. The bank is based in Houston, but it’s grown in recent years and now it’s opened its first out-of-state branch in Atlanta.

Unity National Bank was founded in 1963 as Riverside National Bank, says Ileana Najarro, a business reporter for the Houston Chronicle.

“A lot of existing white-owned institutions weren’t financing small business owners with an African-American background,” she says. “So these communities created their own banks.”

In 1998, Unity opened its first branch in Missouri City. Najarro says that over the years, Unity has demonstrated a commitment to communities.

“In the case of the recession, for instance, that was a huge hit to a lot of minority-owned banks in general, but especially African-American owned banks, as well, with a lot of tight regulators and just losing out because of the housing crisis,” she says. “But in the case of Unity, it didn’t have to take any federal bailout because its shareholders and board members actually invested out of pocket to keep the bank open and not have to rely on any federal assistance.”

In 2016, with the growing Black Lives Matter movement, black banks gained a higher profile. On social media, the rapper Killer Mike encouraged African-Americans to put their money in black banks to support the community and build up capital.

“Similar to what we saw back in the 60s, but now in a modern take,” Najarro says. “And so you saw a wave of deposits coming into Unity National and several other banks across the U.S.”

Now, expanding to Atlanta is the next step for Unity.

“It’s where a lot of successful African-American entrepreneurs are headquartered,” Najarro says, “and sort of this huge, thriving business community driven by African-American leaders.”

Written by Christopher De Los Santos

Rhonda joined KUT in late 2013 as producer for the station's new daily news program, Texas Standard. Rhonda will forever be known as the answer to the trivia question, “Who was the first full-time hire for The Texas Standard?” She’s an Iowa native who got her start in public radio at WFSU in Tallahassee, while getting her Master's Degree in Library Science at Florida State University. Prior to joining KUT and The Texas Standard, Rhonda was a producer for Wisconsin Public Radio.
Laura first joined the KUT team in April 2012. She now works for the statewide program Texas Standard as a reporter and producer. Laura came to KUT from the world of television news. She has worn many different hats as an anchor, reporter and producer at TV stations in Austin, Amarillo and Toledo, OH. Laura is a proud graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia, a triathlete and enjoys travel, film and a good beer. She enjoys spending time with her husband and pets.
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