ATLANTA -- Barnett Banks Inc. committed itself Friday to lending more than $2 billion to low- and moderate-income families over the next four years.
Kathy Weise, Barnett's director of community development, said the bank, based in Jacksonville, Fla., developed its $2 billion program as "part of a long-term plan," and not because of its pending merger with First Florida Banks Inc., Tampa.
Barnett, with $32.9 billion in assets, announced plans to acquire $5.4 billion-asset First Florida on May 18.
Community Groups at Peace
Multibillion-dollar community reinvestment programs have become standard during the past year for banks involved in major acquisitions.
NationsBank Corp., Charlotte, N.C.; Bank America Corp., San Francisco; and New York-base Chemical Banking Corp. have all committed to substantial community reinvestment lending since announcing mergers last year.
Under the guidelines of the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act, regulators can prevent a bank from making an acquisition if it does not properly serve all groups in its market area.
Ms. Weise also said Barnett has no received any indications that community groups might challenge the First Florida deal.
Some past bank acquisitions have been delayed while the Federal Reserve considered community reinvestment challenges.
Barnett's new lending program comprises four elements:
* $1 billion in residential mortgages.
* $800 million in consumer loans, including slots for home improvement and education.
* $180 million in loans to small businesses owned by women or minorities.
* $26.7 million for multi-family housing.
Minority Business Target
In addition, each of Barnett's 33 banks has designated an officer responsible for working with community groups on loan consortia supporting affordable housing, small business, and other activities.
Barnett said its small-business lending unit would develop specific initiatives targeting minority business development.
The largest community reinvestment lending program announced so far was from Bank-America, which pledged $12 billion over 10 years. NationsBank committed to $10 billion over the same period, and Chemical $750 million over five years.