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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with George Esser, June-August 1990. Interview L-0035. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

The North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center

Esser describes some of the work of the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center, an organization that at the time of the interview was supporting minority-owned credit unions, funding black-owned CDCs, and offering microloans. Esser was one of a number of notable North Carolinians involved in the project.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with George Esser, June-August 1990. Interview L-0035. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

GEORGE ESSER:
In the '60s it played among with outreach to other organizations in the community so that it was doing more than either advising farmers or advising urban gardeners.
FRANCES WEAVER:
You mean it got involved in the political process.
GEORGE ESSER:
Well, for example, in the '60s they experienced with something called Area Developments Associations. And one of the community action agencies that we supported in the east actually started with the Choanoke, the Area Development Association which is composed of whites with a few black leaders in the North Hampton, Hertford, Bertie, Gates area, no, Halifax, not Gates. But that effort died. Today you've got a very interesting, and I think effective, non-profit organization that was established under the leadership of Bob Jordan, called the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center. And it is doing some things that the Extension Division meant have done twenty-five years ago. But it's providing studies of problems. It's supporting demonstration projects. For example, it is administrating the money that the General Assembly provided for three purposes. One was support for predominantly minority owned credit unions in the east. Second was the new black owned, black based, community based, CDCs primarily in the east. And the third is administering the so-called Micro Enterprise Loan Program, which is based on an initiative that developed in Bangla Desh fifteen years ago.
FRANCES WEAVER:
Really?
GEORGE ESSER:
Of creating small groups of, in Bangla Desh it was farmers, in this case it could be automobile mechanics and small business people, people who are interested in small businesses. But loans of up to, well, initially, I think, it was $2,000, and then a second one can go up to $5,000, and then a third up to $8,000. There is a test process. Small groups were formed, and let's say there are eight. That group helps determine which person in that group gets the first loan.
FRANCES WEAVER:
Interesting.
GEORGE ESSER:
And they cannot get another loan for anybody in that group until the first one has gotten a loan and is paying it back.
FRANCES WEAVER:
A little community pressure.
GEORGE ESSER:
Yeah, and if he doesn't pay it back, the whole group is censured.
FRANCES WEAVER:
That's an excellent….
GEORGE ESSER:
So its being tried in several places in North Carolina with money from both the General Assembly, which don't think that the leadership of the General Assembly [Laughter] came up with this idea—it was mainly somebody, I forget who, put the idea in there but the black caucus got the money, about half a million dollars. Well, I have been on the advisory committee to create or to start the Micro Enterprise, and I'm on the advisory committee to allocate the money to CDC's. The people that Billy Ray Hull has put into that, he does not have a large staff but he has got a very good staff. And Bill Friday is chairman. Billy Ray Hull is the executive director of the Rural Economic Development Center, and he is an agricultural economist who was in the Hunt administration. But he's a very able young man, and, I think, has done a much better job than people thought he would do.