By Maria Saporta
As it prepares to merge with BB&T, Atlanta-based SunTrust Banks will double its investment in the Atlanta community each year over the next three years.
“It has been $50 million for the last three years,” said Bill Rogers, SunTrust’s chairman and CEO, in an extensive interview on Tuesday. “We are going to double that amount. It will be $100 million a year for next three years for a total of $300 million.”
Rogers said both banks are living up to commitments they made when they announced their intention to merge and their plans to move the corporate headquarters to Charlotte, N.C. BB&T is based in Winston-Salem. That community also will enjoy a doubling of its philanthropic giving over the next three years.
The announcement demonstrates SunTrust’s commitment to its home market.
“It is confirmation of what we have always stood for,” Rogers said. “We’ve been doing this for 125 years.
Rogers said the commitment will continue and even become stronger following the proposed merger with BB&T, expected to close by the end of the year.
“We did this because were merging,” Rogers said. “We are saying three years, but it doesn’t stop there. All the reasons to invest in Atlanta are not going to change.”
SunTrust and the future merged bank will invest in a mix of programs and grants, which will vary year to year. It will include a combination of community development investments from the bank (such as New Markets Tax Credits and Low-Income Housing Tax Credits) as well as philanthropic grants from the SunTrust Foundation.
The $100 million a year commitment will be in addition to the giving that SunTrust makes each year through the trusts that it manages for its clients.
Rogers said the Atlanta investment will focus on four areas – workforce development, affordable housing, youth development and financial wellness.
Rogers said the bank will invest in the sectors and areas with the greatest needs.
“My guess is that we are going to invest more in the area of affordable housing,” Rogers said. “We have invested in the last couple of years in almost 2,000 affordable housing units. We will work with developers to have even greater impact.”
One example of a recent SunTrust investment was $10.6 million in Low-Income Housing Tax Credits to help construct 175 units of affordable senior housing in greater Atlanta.
Rogers said the bank willpartner with a diverse set of respected institutions across the city – from neighborhood revitalization programs to hospitals and schools – to build a “vibrant” Atlanta.
“We believe that if you build your community, you build your bank,” Rogers said. “Investing in the community is so much more than philanthropy. It is one of the legs of a many-legged stool.”