…. And a Nod to the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond

by James A. Bacon

As a follow-up to my post about Stephen Moret, whose contributions to Virginia’s economic development have been amply recognized, I’d like to acknowledge the work of an important figure who has largely flown under the radar: Tom Barkin, CEO and president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.

Federal Reserve Bank presidents are quoted mainly for their thoughts about Federal Reserve Board monetary policy. Presidents of the Richmond Fed, for instance, have been known over the years as monetary hawks, advocating the Fed’s role as inflation fighter. Although the Richmond Fed has always gathered data and business intelligence about economic activity in the 5th federal reserve district, which includes Virginia, previous bank presidents rarely delved into the nitty gritty of local economic development.

Barkin is different. He may be engaged in national policy debates — I don’t know — but I can state with certainty that he has reoriented the analytical and research resources of the Fed to figuring out how to promote economic growth and development within his district, which encompasses Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina. He has been traveling throughout the region — not just to the big cities — and talking to local leaders. One particular focus has been rural community development.

Barkin has brought attention, for instance, to the importance of workforce development and of “anchor” institutions such as banks and hospitals in rural communities. Jobs are going unfilled in rural areas — see today’s Wall Street Journal on how North Carolina furniture manufacturers are losing business because they can’t find enough skilled workers — even as the labor participation rate lags national levels. What more can be done to connect people with jobs? How do people decide which educational/career paths to follow in the first place?

The bank has upped its commitment to the study of community-development issues in the past two years. Consider other topics addressed in some of its Community Spotlights:

Connecting Rural Households to Broadband: Barriers and Models for Public Intervention

Inclusionary Zoning in the U.S. and the Fifth District

Closing the Workforce Skills Gap: Apprenticeship Programs in the U.S. and the Fifth District

I did not appreciate until very recently the work the Richmond bank was doing. I’ll try to be more diligent about sharing its work with Bacon’s Rebellion readers in the future.

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2 responses to “…. And a Nod to the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond

  1. What? A shortage of qualified workers? Maybe we could look at that pool of under-trained and economically pressured people on various public assistance programs, get them into a GED class and then a job training program. NO! That would be cruel! You evil capitalists just seek to exploit these poor folks! (Sorry, had a Larry moment there…..)

  2. Well-deserved recognition for Tom Barkin. I expect his thoughtful and passionate engagement on rural development will bear fruit.

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