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FAIR LENDING PROJECT TEAMS WITH WISCONSIN BANKS TO CREATE NOVEL LOW-INCOME LENDING INITIATIVE

 FAIR LENDING PROJECT TEAMS WITH WISCONSIN BANKS
 TO CREATE NOVEL LOW-INCOME LENDING INITIATIVE
 MILWAUKEE, Feb. 12 /PRNewswire/ -- A unique lending initiative benefiting Milwaukee's low-income and minority areas was unveiled today by the Fair Lending Project, and Associated Banc-Corp and F&M Financial Services Corp., two Wisconsin-based bank holding companies that are in the process of merging.
 According to Sheila Cochran, advisory committee member of the Fair Lending Project, the initiative will create a new and constructive lending force in the community. "Through the initiative, up to $9 million in business and residential loans will be originated and made available to the central city community during the next five years," Cochran said.
 In December 1991, the Fair Lending Project challenged the Associated/F&M merger under the federal Community Reinvestment Act. Almost immediately, however, the project and the banks found that they were both interested in the same results and began talks to develop plans for the future.
 Cochran added, "We appreciate the good faith shown by both lenders in shaping this initiative that meets all of our needs. You don't have to take our word for it, we encourage families in the central city considering home ownership to apply for a mortgage at these institutions. With today's interest rates, it may be to your advantage to own rather than rent."
 Roger Dirksen, president of Associated Commerce Bank in Milwaukee, praised the Fair Lending Project's leadership for working closely with the banks.
 "The initiative embraces a unique and joint commitment between bank groups and community leaders to collectively find ways to alleviate the funding problems that plague businesses and individuals in Milwaukee's central city. We believe in the strength of this two-way initiative, and that the availability of new loans will help revitalize this area and enhance the prospects of home ownership for community residents," Dirksen said.
 Richard Klug, chairman of F&M Financial Services Corp. in Menomonee Falls, said he feels strongly that the initiative is a positive model of how banks and community groups can work together.
 "This initiative will illustrate and vitalize the hope we see in Milwaukee's central city -- hope for finding a home mortgage, hope for finding a business loan. From our discussions with the people of the Fair Lending Project, we learned that individuals in the central city need a meaningful program to give them new hope of obtaining credit. We'd like to play a part in remedying that feeling of despair," Klug said.
 Key objectives of the agreement include:
 -- Increasing commercial loans within the central city through the origination of $5,000,000 in commercial loans during the next five years;
 -- Originating $4,000,000 in owner/occupied loans in the central city during the next five years. In doing so, the groups will work with New Opportunities for Home Ownership Initiative in Milwaukee (NOHIM) to implement new underwriting standards, strengthen and refine outreach and market efforts, and consider originating loans to specific construction/ rehabilitation housing projects;
 -- Increasing sensitivity awareness among bank employees and increased recruitment of minorities for all levels of personnel within the banks; and
 -- Establishing a joint community committee to manage the execution of the objective.
 The Fair Lending Project, a coalition of neighborhood organizations, civil rights groups and labor unions, has withdrawn its challenge and is focusing on working to make the initiative a reality.
 Upon completion of their merger later this year, Green Bay-based Associated Banc-Corp and Menomonee Falls-based F&M Financial Services Corp. will be a $2.8 billion-asset bank with 75 banking locations throughout Wisconsin and Illinois.
 -0- 2/12/92
 /CONTACT: Roger Dirksen of Associated Banc-Corp, 414-271-1786; Richard Klug of F&M Financial Services, 414-253-2310; Dan Willett of Fair Lending Project (FLP), 414-344-0454; or Sheila Cochran of FLP Advisory Committee Member, 414-374-0298/ CO: Fair Lending Project; Associated Banc-Corp; F&M Financial Services
 Corp. ST: Wisconsin IN: FIN SU:


GK -- NY067 -- 9279 02/12/92 13:17 EST
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Feb 12, 1992
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