CHICAGO -- Mayor Maynard Jackson of Atlanta last week called on pension fund managers and trustees to invest in improving the infrastructure of American cities to foster greatly needed economic development in urban areas.
Mayor Jackson, speaking here at the National Association of Securities Professionals conference, said the $2.5 trillion of pension funds in the United States could be invested wisely in infrastructure improvements, including roads, bridges, mass transit, and high-speed rail systems.
"Be more creative in your investments which maintaining your fiduciary responsibilities," Mr. Jackson said. "Invest in American cities, where your pensioners live."
Mayor Jackson said the condition of urban infrastructure is poor and hampering economic development. That, in turn, is leading to higher unemployment and a lower standard of living in cities compared with other areas of the country, raising the potential of civil unrest, he added.
"We had Desert Storm and now we're facing Urban Storm," Mayor Jackson said.
He pointed out that the public finance community in particular needs to focus on the needs of cities because the federal government severely curtailed urban assistance programs during the last decade.
"We've gotten mandates, but not the money," he said.
Mayor Jackson also called on pension fund trustees to more aggressively seek out qualified women- and minority-owned firms to manage their investments. He said that of the $2.5 trillion in pension funds in the United States, only $10 billion is managed by women-or minority-owned firms.
"An investment firm should be selected on merit, but we want some opportunity to compete," he explained. Mayor Jackson, a founder of the association, was a bond lawyer with the Atlanta office of Chapman & Cutler before being elected mayor in 1990.
Opportunity to compete was also championed by another speaker, Treasurer Kathleen Brown of California.
Ms. Brown said public finance officials should reject setting quotas for the awarding of business to minority- and women-owned firms, but should work to include qualified firms in finance deals.
"We don't need quotas, we need fair competition," Ms. Brown maintained. "The key points for fair competition are opportunity, performance, and accountability."
She added that the use of the generally smaller women- and minority-owned firms helps to foster a higher level of competition among firms by broadening the base of possible underwriters, bond counsel, and advisory firms.
"That competition is good for the state of California," she said.
The National Association of Securities Professionals was founded in 1985 by public and corporate finance officials as an organization dedicated to achieving equal opportunity for women and minority finance professionals.