Charleston Gazette: Macabe Keliher: A state bank could democratize capital, not only for pot, but for WV

Charleston Gazette, July 6. 2018: Macabe Keliher: A state bank could democratize capital, not only for pot, but for WV


The recent proposal by the state treasurer’s office to charter a state bank to serve the medical marijuana business is a historic opportunity for West Virginia. Not only can such an institution serve the forthcoming cannabis industry, helping diversify the economy and contribute to state revenues, but it can be further tasked with a mission to serve West Virginians by increasing access to capital and lowering state debt.

Far more than just handling marijuana payments, a state bank can help remake the West Virginian economy by empowering people financially and giving them the ability to realize their aspirations for a greater life.

State banks need not simply be depositories: They are used by national and local governments from Germany to North Dakota to encourage investment and stimulate economic development. They are financial institutions chartered by a government and mandated to serve a public mission that reflects the values and needs of citizens. They keep capital in the community and invest in local economies, returning all profits and interest payments to the people.

In the highly successful example of the Bank of North Dakota (BND), all state funds and revenues are mandated to be deposited in the bank, which are then put to use for the public good. This enables a multiplication of credit, and ensures that state money is enlisted to work for the real economy, not speculative financial markets. Partnering with local private banks, the BND initiates lending programs reflective of state needs, such as economic diversification and small business growth.

A state bank of West Virginia could do similar work to help address two of our biggest economic issues: access to capital and state debt.

West Virginia businesses are finding it increasingly hard to raise capital for investment. Nationally, each of the state’s 55 counties rank in the lowest quintile for loan access, leading the National Community Reinvestment Coalition to categorize the state as a “lending desert.”

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