As president and CEO of United Bank, Bob Jones has for the past quarter-century advised and aided various entities in Lower Alabama and the Gulf region on how to best utilize their financial resources. Now his advice will help shape the revitalization and salvation of distressed communities across the country.
Jones was recently appointed by President Donald Trump to a four-year term on the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Community Development Advisory Board, which was formed to advise the director of the Community Development Banking and Financial Institutions Fund.
“I’m pleased to be considered,” Jones said. “I’m not sure what all it entails yet, but I’ll figure it out as we go along. I’m looking forward to it; it will be a learning experience.”
He said he’s not really sure just how his appointment came to be, but attributed at least part of the nomination to his work at the local lending institution, which is one of “only about 130 or 140” in the nation that are certified as a Community Development Entity.
“I’m not really sure where the nomination came from, but it made it to the White House,” said Jones, who had to go through a thorough vetting process before joining the board. “The staff there began the due diligence process, and the rest is kind of history, as they say. Hopefully I won’t embarrass anybody.”
The local bank executive and eight other individuals from the private sector will join some impressive company as CDAB members. The remaining board seats are filled by the secretaries of the six Cabinet-level departments – Agriculture, Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Interior and Treasury, along with the director of the U.S. Small Business Administration.
The advisory board will offer suggestions on how the Treasury department and CDFI banks can better and more effectively make use of CDFI funds. The numerous grants and low-interest loans that are available are designed to provide capital for numerous and varied projects, including municipal facilities, healthcare facilities, rural water systems, non-profit facilities and more.
“Part of our mission is helping policy makers craft better regulations and policy with the benefit of trying to understand the repercussions of what they do,” Jones said. “That will help CDFI banks be more capable of serving the CDFI mission.”
He added that the experience should be one that allows him to learn valuable lessons that can be imparted to others throughout the state even after his time on the board has ended and pointed out that Alabama is the least represented state in the nation in taking advantage of available initiatives.
“By the time I finish my tenure there, I will be a better steward of how to use these programs and how I can help ensure that organizations, businesses, schools and everybody else can learn how to use this information more effectively,” said Jones, who earned his Bachelor of Science and Master of Business Administration degrees from Auburn University and attended Southern Methodist University’s Southwestern Graduate School of Banking. “What I hope to be able to do is learn more about how we can be more effective in getting our fair share of those programs and helping make a difference in these communities.”
He equated the situations that exist in most small communities to one of the recurring story lines from a popular television show of the 1960s.
“Remember Ernest T. Bass, the guy who would throw rocks through the windows when he came to town? Everybody wants to break the windows and complain about what everybody else is doing or not doing,” Jones said. “We have got to have groups that are willing to get in there, figure things out and do something. We have a lot of Ernest T. Basses and not enough Andy Taylors. We need more Andys than Ernest T.’s.”