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Nassau looks to boost minority-owned banks

Nassau County government is looking to share its wealth with minority-owned banks in the county, hoping that spurs those banks to extend credit to businesses in their communities, officials said Tuesday at a seminar for minority financial companies and businesses in Uniondale.

County Treasurer Steven Conklin said the county now uses about 10 banks, approved by the legislature, for its money. He said the county's main goal is to get the best rates for its money, but he also wants to spread deposits around.

"There is plenty of opportunity to work with all the banks of the county, regardless of their size," Conklin said.

"We must be a facilitator for them," said Timothy Williams, a member of the county Human Rights Commission. If they have capital from municipal deposits, they're more able to lend, he said.

"These branches are doing business with minority firms that are creating jobs," Williams said.

Conklin noted that one of the banks the county uses is City National Bank of Newark, N.J., the second-largest black-owned bank in the country. It's one of the few banks with a branch in Roosevelt, and is about to open another in New Cassel.

"We're the gypsy cabs of banks," said Stuart Nisbett, the branch manager there. "We go where other banks don't go."

Other banks are eager to go there.

"That's what we're all about," said Kevin Lenihan, president and chief executive of Indus American Bank, a New Jersey bank that serves the South Asian community. It has a branch in Hicksville.

He said Indus would be interesting in having the county deposit money with the bank, adding that the bank already lends to minority-owned businesses in Hicksville.

About 200 people - county officials, minority bankers and business people - attended the event, which was loosely scheduled to allow people to mingle and swap business cards.

Several Nassau officials, including County Executive Edward Mangano, showed up to encourage minority-owned businesses to seek county contracts.

Phillip Elliott, executive director of the county Office of Minority Affairs, said minority-owned companies now have almost 15 percent of county contracts. He said he'd like that to increase to 20 percent this year and 25 percent next year.

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