Official: Federal Reserve spearheads engagement

The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia has created an initiative to create business solutions for low-income communities.

Patrick Harker, president and CEO, stopped in Williamsport recently to share some of the ways the Economic Growth & Mobility Project is helping spur economic growth.

“We have a whole team that reaches out to communities,” he said.

In many areas, transportation is a problem people face daily just to report to and from work, according to Harker.

“If you can’t live near a job you can’t get to it,” he said.

In Scranton, efforts were made to help solve that transportation problem which prevented many residents from not only reaching jobs, but making it to doctor appointments, accessing child care facilities and engaging in social, religious and cultural events.

Working with the Scranton Area Community Foundation, the Federal Reserve pushed the issue forward.

“We hosted a discussion to look into it,” Harker said.

He noted that Scranton served as a model for looking at similar problems in other communities.

Harker briefly talked about the Federal Reserve’s Consumer Finance Institute, whose mission is to produce leading-edge research on how credit markets and payment systems affect the economy.

Research has included student loan debt and its ramifications on millenials and the rest of society.

“It’s the second largest debt next to mortgages,” Harker said. “We are trying to understand that.”

Issues greatly impacting baby boomers, he said, include retirement, specifically having sufficient income for those post-employment years.

The Federal Reserve, Harker said, monitors the economy and the workforce.

“The economy is pretty sound,” he said.

However, he noted many companies are having problems finding skilled workers to fill jobs.

The jobless rate is at a fairly healthy rate of 4.2 percent, according to Harker.

“The economy won’t grow unless we see people to fill jobs,” he said.