October 26, 2004

Sen. Clinton Visits Local Credit Union

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Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) spoke to a crowd of two hundred Ithacans yesterday afternoon at Alternatives Federal Credit Union about the need for community development.

The crowd gave Clinton a warm reception even though she arrived over an hour late to the event.

In a few words, William Myers, CEO of Alternatives, introduced Clinton and two additional speakers who attested to the success of Alternatives’ different approach to credit lending.

Ralph Moss, co-owner of Ralph’s Ribs spoke first and gave the crowd a short account of his success story. He went from selling BBQ sauce at the farmer’s market to recently opening a restaurant in Ithaca.

“They drew us a life-line,” Moss said, speaking of the help Myers and Alternatives gave him and his business partner, Robert Wright.

Before beginning her formal speech, Hillary told the crowd that she heard first-hand the quality of Moss’ ribs from her husband, former President Bill Clinton, who sampled them when he traveled to Ithaca last May for Convocation. Julie Albertson followed Moss, and spoke of her lengthy journey toward home-ownership. She applauded Alternatives for “its commitment to social justice.”

Albertson moved to Ithaca twenty years ago, but it took her and her husband nearly thirteen years to be able to obtain the mortgage necessary to afford a home. But seven years ago, with the help of Alternatives they were able to purchase a ten acre house.

“They give a voice to people who ordinarily don’t have one,” she said. “Any normal financial institution would have given up on me.”

Clinton spoke of her “belief” in the system that Myers has embraced as CEO of Alternatives. She told the crowd she traveled to Ithaca partly in order to “bring more attention to [Alternatives’] model, because we can do it on a much broader scale for all of New York State”.

She applauded Alternatives for keeping people’s dreams alive, specifically those of Moss and Albertson.

“More dreams die in the parking lots of banks in American than anywhere else,” she said.

Clinton’s visit coincided with the announcement of a $1.4 million Community Development Financial Institution award, a program started in 1994 under her husband’s administration which she is now “fighting to save.”

She explained to the crowd her interest in this program, saying that “In our globally competitive economy, where we are losing jobs overseas, the biggest engine of job growth is small business.”

Since 2000 Alternatives has helped over sixty small businesses either start or keep competing in the marketplace, she said.

Additionally, Alternatives has helped start over seventy micro-enterprises since 2000, which are defined as five or less employees.

Clinton stated that micro-enterprises are fundamental to New York’s economy since, nearly 20-percent of New Yorkers are employed by them.

Following the speeches, various small businesses gathered inside the credit union to mingle with one another and to catch a glimpse of Clinton before she left. The crowd received her speech graciously.

Many agreed that she spoke sharply and sparked many people’s interest without losing them on minutiae.

“She was most charismatic and able to show her commitment without getting sentimental,” said Prof. John Weiss, history, who attended the speech.

Archived article by Michael Margolis
Sun Senior Writer