Five-year reinvestment plan directs resources to underserved communities

Muncie, Ind. – First Merchants announced today a $1.4 billion community investment plan with the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) and its community-based members and partners. The collaborative initiative began with a needs assessment in September 2019 and was finalized earlier this month.

The commitment, which extends through 2025, includes mortgage, small business and community development investments and lending. Philanthropic funding is a primary focus as well and will be funneled to low- and moderate-income communities across First Merchants’ regional market areas in Indiana, Ohio, Illinois and Michigan.

“The $1.4 billion Community Benefits Agreement accelerates First Merchants’ leadership in helping our communities and customers thrive,” said Mike Rechin, First Merchants CEO. “At a time when low- and moderate-income neighborhoods are most vulnerable, we will provide hundreds of millions of dollars to help communities throughout Indiana, Ohio, Illinois and Michigan. The impact of these resources will last well into the future.”

The collaboration with NCRC involves 19 locally based community organizations that provided critical input to develop the plan.

“This agreement is a product of all of our efforts. This commitment provides First Merchants Bank an opportunity to increase its Community Reinvestment Act activity, and to direct it where it is needed most,” said Jesse Van Tol, NCRC CEO. “This is how the Community Reinvestment Act should work for banks and communities alike.”

First Merchants will leverage its current partnerships with community-based organizations to help identify and engage with potential clients who may benefit from existing and newly developed products and programs.

“The Community Benefits Agreement is an opportunity for the employees of First Merchants to take great pride and engage in as we continue along with our partners to stand in the gap assisting those who most need an opportunity to build financial stability,” said Karen Evens, First Merchants Marketing Director.

The commitment by First Merchants will focus on underserved, low- to moderate-income and rural communities and provide:
• $398 million in mortgage lending
• $423 million in small business lending
• $580 million in community development lending and investment commitments
• $3.4 million in sponsorships, grant, loan and investment opportunities
• $10 million to open five new branches and/or loan production offices in low- to moderate-income communities, including Marion County, Ind. Lake County, Ind., Franklin County, Ohio and Wayne County, Mich.

“This agreement with First Merchants Bank is a significant step forward and reflects practices that all banks can adopt in order to address the racial wealth divide,” said Dedrick Asante-Muhammad, NCRC Chief of Race, Wealth and Community.

These new investments add to First Merchants’ existing support of clients and community organizations during the coronavirus pandemic. Those resources include loan modifications, mortgage assistance, economic injury disaster loans, emergency personal loans and more.

“Banks working with community groups to come up with these types of agreements is exactly how the CRA (Community Reinvestment Act) should work,” said Jean Ishmon, Northwest Indiana Reinvestment Alliance Executive Director. “First Merchants has committed to start tracking how much of the company’s support goes to organizations led by people of color. That’s leadership, and I hope to see more banks follow this example.”

“From the very first meeting of executives from First Merchants Bank, I found them to be authentic in their concern for low-to-moderate income communities and willing to partner with community development corporations, housing organizations, community organizers and many others,” said Juan Castixo, Chicago Community Loan Fund, VP, External Relations, “The result is a comprehensive approach to community reinvestment.”