The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, which serves Ohio and parts of three other states, has put together a group of advisers that it hopes will help it to better understand how emerging economic and social issues are affecting the average American.
Fifteen people representing Ohio, western Pennsylvania, northern Kentucky, and the panhandle of West Virginia will provide the Cleveland Fed’s Community Development staff with feedback on policy and programs affecting work force and economic development, housing affordability, and access to credit for small businesses.
Among the 15 named to two-year terms on the Cleveland Fed’s first-ever Community Advisory Council is Keith Burwell, president and chief executive of the Toledo Community Foundation, which serves greater Toledo and is a collection of individual, family, organization, and business funds used for philanthropic purposes within the community.
Mr. Burwell said it was his impression that the bank had plenty of data and statistics but isn’t sure how things play out in actual neighborhoods.
“They want to know, how does it hit the street? What’s the difference in what we do in Toledo and northwest Ohio? What research can they do that will trigger a policy change or understand how to drill to that life level?” Mr. Burwell said.
The community foundation president said he is not an economist. But he understands tariffs and tax reforms and how they translate not just at local businesses, but to people living in the Toledo area.
“Part of what I’ll help them with, I hope, and what I’ll attempt to do is bring reality to their numbers,” Mr. Burwell said. “I’ll try not to overplay it. But it’s easy to get wrapped up on simple numbers. [The council] can talk about not only unemployment numbers, but what does [unemployment] do to the average person,” he said.
“We can tell them about whether a policy really did make a difference, or whether it was a great policy that didn’t really do a whole heck of a lot,” he added.
Mr. Burwell is the only person from northwest Ohio on the Cleveland Fed’s advisory council. Overall, there are nine members from Ohio, four from Pennsylvania, and two from Kentucky. Their first meeting with bank officials will be Oct. 17.
The Toledo area should be an excellent place to gather feedback about how federal monetary policies are playing out at the street level, Mr. Burwell said.
The community is just large enough to be affected by most federal programs, but still small enough to quickly judge those effects at the lowest levels, he said.
“We’re actually a great petri dish over here in Toledo,” Mr. Burwell said.
“The foundation every day gives away dollars for community activities. I think we have a good idea on what can make a difference.”