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Our PBS Documentaries

> Across The River

 

Across the River: Jobs and Hope
Transcript For Segment 5

NARRATOR: LATE APRIL, PRESIDENT LLOYD SMITH AT THE 15TH ANNIVERSARY BANQUET OF THE MARSHALL HEIGHTS COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT ORGANIZATION.

L.SMITH "We are going to open in June the first Chesapeake bagel bakery east of the river. The first one that's owned in the entire chain by an African-American and his wife. Along with us, and do you know that all the folks that people are coming up to us on the street and asking us in a 96% black American community, "When is the bagel bakery going to open up the restaurant, I want to go there."

M.JAWER: "Marshall Heights group led really by Lloyd Smith and the board speak with a single voice. From the perspective of a private developer, when you make a deal with them, it's done. You can shake a hand with someone and you can proceed in a business like fashion.

STANDUP: JOBS...OPENING NEW BUSINESSES...REBUILDING AN ECONOMIC BASE...NOTHING IS HARDER FOR MOST OF AMERICA'S BESEIGED INNER CITIES. COMBATTING MIDDLE CLASS FLIGHT REQUIRES CREATING THE JOBS AND SERVICES THAT ANCHOR A COMMUNITY AND GENERATE HOPE. OVER 15 YEARS, MARSHALL HEIGHTS COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT ORGANIZATION HAS DEFIED THE ODDS. DESPITE A CRIME PROBLEM AND A STEADY MIDDLE CLASS EXODUS, THIS NON-PROFIT GROUP HAS BECOME A BEACON OF HOPE, A MODEL OF COMMUNITY REVITALIZATION.

DARBY: "I elected not to move. I elected to stay in that community and make a difference. That's what we all need to do."

NARRATOR: IN MARSHALL HEIGHTS, THAT COMMITMENT IS WEDDED TO A STRATEGY OF VIGOROUS ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT SPEARHEADED BY LLOYD SMITH.

L.TATE: "Lloyd has concept which says that economic development of a community makes for a thriving community."

NARRATOR: IN 1980, LORETTA TATE ...THEN A YOUNG COMMUNITY ACTIVIST...URGED LLOYD SMITH TO LEAVE THE CITY PLANNING OFFICE AND LEAD THE MARSHALL HEIGHTS ORGANIZATION. LLOYD JUMPED AT THE CHANCE.

L. SMITH: "I wanted to get something done. The bottom line is producing. The bottom line is results. I can get more done than most of the politicians can.

NARRATOR: IT'S A TAKE-CHARGE ATTITUDE THAT STARTED EARLY.

L. SMITH: "As a 17-year-old in combat in Korea, attached to the First Marine Division, I grew up fast.... I was telling guys 25, 30 years old what to do and when to do it."

C. LOPPIANO: "It starts with leadership and it starts with Lloyd Smith here at Marshall Heights. It's the ability to say - to take your vision and make other people share it."

L. SMITH: "We decided to buy it and renovate it..."

NARRATOR: LLOYD SMITH'S MOTTO IS MAKE NO SMALL PLANS...DREAM BIG.

L. SMITH: "...He told me $14,000. But he gave me a modified budget... That was before..."

NARRATOR: WITH A STAFF OF 56, AND AN ANNUAL BUDGET OF $4.5 MILLION, HE MAKES THINGS HAPPEN THAT OTHERS CONSIDER IMPOSSIBLE.

L.SMITH "We need to talk about the new initiative they have..."

NARRATOR: HE BEGAN IN HOUSING COUNSELING..BUT SEIZED A CHANCE TO BUY AND REBUILD A DECLINING SHOPPING MALL.

L. TATE: "Lloyd Smith came to the Board of Directors and said, 'I would like to buy that shopping center.' And the Board of Directors looked at him and said you're out of your mind. You know that's impossible, we don't have any money."

C. LOPPIANO: "And it took two years. And he visited with 30 different investors, they all turned him down. But he never gave up.

L. SMITH: "We found out that 80% of the community disposable income was being spent outside of Ward 7. IF we could pull this off, this would help to begin the revitalization of our commercial center.

NARRATOR: WITH THE DEAL ABOUT TO COLLAPSE, SMITH PUT HIS PERSONAL ASSESTS ON THE LINE TO GUARANTEE A LOAN FROM THE CITY.

L. SMITH: "The house that I own, and the other house that my wife and I own, we own two homes, and a couple of cars. But I felt so strongly about this deal that it was going to work, that I really had no qualms about doing that. So I didn't tell my wife about this until several years later."

H. SMITH: "Why'd you do that? Why'd you put your own personal assets at risk?"L. SMITH: "This was a must, must-do deal. This was a win- win for everybody - community, Marshall Heights, and business development and commercial revitalization."

NARRATOR: LLOYD'S GUARANTEE WAS THE CLINCHER. THE DEAL WORKED AND MARSHALL HEIGHTS WOUND UP PART OWNER OF A SHOPPING CENTER NOW WORTH 11 MILLION DOLLARS. THE MARSHALL HEIGHTS GROUP IS NOT ONLY AN ACTIVE BUSINESS PARTNER BUT A SUPPORTIVE LANDLORD FOR THE CENTER'S TENANTS. FLORIST ALI SHALEH.

A. SHALEH: "I started out with my own money. About the second year, things weren't going too good, as you know it's a new business. And I went to Mr. Smith, and Mr. Smith gave me a loan. And that helps me to stay alive, and the business is growing."

NARRATOR: THE EAST RIVER SHOPPING MALL MEANS 300 JOBS FOR THE AREA...AND OPERATES AT 100 PERCENT OCCUPANCY IN A FORMERLY DEPRESSED AREA. WHAT'S ITS FORMULA FOR SUCCESS?

L. TATE: "This shopping center is owned by the community. It's here for the community, it's owned by the community, and it's operated by the community."

NARRATOR: LLOYD SMITH AND MARSHALL HEIGHTS HAVE POOLED THEIR SHOPPING CENTER PROFITS WITH FOUNDATION GRANTS TO FUND SOCIAL SERVICE PROGRAMS.

L. SMITH: "We do human development, crisis intervention services, referral for services, alcohol, drug abuse, prevention, intervention, treatment..."

H. SMITH: "There's a strong civic spirit here. Is that new, is that old?"

L. SMITH: "It's old. It goes back to the early 1900's."

NARRATOR: EVEN EARLIER...THE EAST OF THE RIVER TRADITION OF LOCAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT BEGAN LAST CENTURY WITH SUCH FIGURES AS STATESMAN-ABOLITIONIST FREDERICK DOUGLASS AND THE BOARD OF THE ALPHA BANK AND LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY. LIKE DOUGLASS, LLOYD SMITH MIXES EASILY WITH THE HOME FOLKS AND WITH THE MOVERS AND SHAKERS DOWNTOWN...TO ATTRACT THE CAPITAL THAT IS OFTEN IMPOSSIBLE FOR MANY INNER-CITY RESIDENTS TO OBTAIN.

L. SMITH: "money, contributors, supporters, community people, board members, church groups, everybody coming together to say 'Hey we're with you, we believe in what you are doing.'"

NARRATOR: SUCH AS LLOYD SMITH'S DRIVE TO BUILD AFFORDABLE HOUSING. THESE THREE-BEDROOM TOWNHOUSE CONDOS GO FOR UNDER ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS.

L. SMITH: "We think that's very important in keeping the stability of the community up and home-ownership is a key part of what we try to encourage."

NARRATOR: ANOTHER KEY ISSUE...SAFETY. THIS ANNUAL MARCH AGAINST DRUGS AND CRIME ENGAGES A CROSS-SECTION OF RESIDENTS, INCLUDING THE LOCAL POLICE INSPECTOR.

J. SIMS: "When you have organizations that work closely with the police. Then the end result will be a reduction in crime."

NARRATOR: THE GROUP'S BOARD OF DIRECTORS IS LARGE AND VERY ACTIVE.R. HAMILTON: "We have and all of us have put in a lot of years, this is our 15th year."

NARRATOR: AND ITS MEETINGS ARE OPEN TO ANY RESIDENT. THEY COVER EVERYTHING FROM CRIME PREVENTION TO, OF COURSE ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT.CHRESCENZO: "Caple Green is beginning the process of interviewing people who are interested in working at the bagel bakery, if you have any friends or relatives, neighbors, who are interested in potentially working there."

NARRATOR: ATTRACTING NEW BUSINESSES IS TOUCH AND GO. LLOYD SMITH WANTS LIGHT INDUSTRY. SO FAR, HE'S GOTTEN RETAILERS. TO LAUNCH THE BAGEL BAKERY, HE HAD TO PIECE TOGETHER A PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP ...LINK HIS GROUP WITH THE CHESAPEAKE BAGEL CHAIN, SEVERAL BANKS, THE SMALL BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION, AND A FORMER MCDONALD'S MANAGER, CAPLE GREEN.... GREEN AS OWNER WOULD HAVE A MARSHALL HEIGHTS SUBSIDIARY AS A MINORITY STOCKHOLDER.

NARRATOR: ALONG WITH GREEN, THEY CLOSELY MONITORED THE RENOVATION OF A FORMER BANK ...INTO WHAT WOULD BE ONLY THE SECOND SIT-DOWN RESTAURANT IN THE AREA.

INSTRUCTOR: "You are selling yourself from the time that you enter into that interview process."

NARRATOR: GREEN NEEDED EMPLOYEES...MARSHALL HEIGHTS FOUND LOCAL APPLICANTS...AND GAVE THEM JOB COUNSELING.

INSTRUCTOR: "Care about your company and the work that you've done."

WOMAN: "Go that extra mile."

INSTRUCTOR: "Go the extra mile."

GREEN: "Hello, I'm Caple Green....owner-operator, Chesapeakse Bagel Bakery. I think that the quality of the people I 'm getting is very high quality."

APPLICANT: "My children are now in school, so I'm ready to go back to work."

H.SMITH: One of the things that Lloyd Smith has made a big point of is having people who have a stake in things. Are you going to have employee ownership?"

GREEN: "Absolutely. Thirty-four percent of the business will be employees owned."

H. SMITH: "How important was Lloyd Smith and the Marshall Heights organization in help you organize the business and get set up here?"

C. GREEN: "Well it's the greatest thing I could have. Without them maybe this project would not have resonated, not go anywhere."

NARRATOR: THERE WERE DELAYS ON CITY PERMITS...BUT FINALLY...

N.PARKER: "Welcome to the Grand Opening of the Chesapeake Bagel Bakery....

NARRATOR: IN LATE JUNE, ANOTHER JOB-PRODUCING VENTURE LAUNCHED.

CUSTOMER: "I'm going to put some good stuff on it then I'll be in shape here, okay."

HAMILTON: "But it's not really about bagels, it's about jobsÉAll of the employees have jobs, and they live in the community."

L.SMITH: "The fact that we were able to put this together - it has not been very easyÉThis is due to the hard work of our board of directors of Marshall Heights."

HAMILTON: "Every dime that Marshall Heights gets out of this shopping centers, goes back into the community."

NARRATOR: WITH NEW JOBS AND STORES AVAILABLE, PEOPLE NOW SPEND SEVENTY PERCENT OF THEIR MONEY LOCALLY, INSTEAD OF TWENTY PERCENT...AND THE MARSHALL HEIGHTS BOARD IS ADDING MORE BUSINESSES.

L.SMITH: "We're going to put a Rent-A-Center on Dix Street....and remember, I told you, Pizza Hut delivery service. We want to have a good place to work, a good place to produce, a good place to do research, to write books, to put on plays, to develop culturally, artistically, intellectually, economically. You put all that together, you got a good community."

CLOSING STANDUP: BUILDING SAFE, THRIVING COMMUNITIES FOR THE CHILDREN AND GRANDCHILDREN IS WHAT IT'S ALL ABOUT ...THE COMMON PURPOSE THAT ANIMATES THE PEOPLE WE'VE JUST MET. THEY WANT WHAT WE ALL WANT - JOBS, GOOD HOMES, HEALTH CARE, LESS VIOLENCE, AND THEIR CHILDREN SUCCEEDING IN THE MAINSTREAM OF AMERICA. THEIR LIVES DEMONSTRATE THE WILL AND THE ABILITY TO REPAIR THE TORN FABRIC OF AMERICA'S CITIES. THE GAINS COME HARD. BUT THESE URBAN HEROES ARE REKINDLING HOPE IN A SEA OF DESPAIR...AT A TIME WHEN CITY BUDGETS ARE COLLAPSING...AND GOOD PROGRAMS ARE STARVING FOR FUNDS. FOR AMERICA, THE QUESTION IS WHETHER THESE BRAVE, DEDICATED PEOPLE WILL BE LEFT AS ISLANDS OF INSPIRATION...OR GAIN SUPPORT FROM THE WIDER COMMUNITY TO TRANSFORM THE WORLD ACROSS THE RIVER. I'M HEDRICK SMITH...THANK YOU FOR JOINING US.