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Adirondack Foundation CEO Cali Brooks discusses her appointment to an advisory board of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York

 Adirondack Foundation President and CEO Cali Brooks
Adirondack Foundation
Adirondack Foundation President and CEO Cali Brooks

The head of an Adirondack non-profit has been appointed to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Community Advisory Group. Since 1997, the Adirondack Foundation has worked to identify and funnel philanthropic efforts to address challenges including child care, food insecurity, and housing needs in the Adirondacks.

President and CEO Cali Brooks has led the Foundation since 2001.

Brooks spoke with WAMC North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley about what the Federal Reserve Bank’s advisory group does and why she wants to serve on it.

Our role is really to offer a diverse perspective on the circumstances, economic and financial service needs of the people in our region where we are serving. There's a particular focus on low-and-moderate income populations.

How did you find out about the group and why did you want to get the chance to serve on it?

Great question, Pat. The Adirondack Foundation has been aware of the New York Federal Reserve and has actually worked with them over maybe the past 20 years. The New York Federal Reserve Bank works to make the economy stronger and the financial system more stable for the region they serve. They have a team of economists and researchers and they produce data reports at all levels of our economy. So we've been aware of them for many years. In fact, it was probably about 12 years ago, I brought then president of the New York bank up to Plattsburgh to meet with business leaders and give them a tour of the region. We're hoping to do that again in the coming years. But they're just a great resource for data and information. And so I've been aware of them for quite some time.

Well, how important will it be to have somebody on this advisory committee who can bring the Adirondack, North Country and rural perspective to the Federal Reserve Bank?

So just to give you a sense, the New York Federal Reserve Bank has a very interesting geographic coverage area. They serve all of New York state, northern New Jersey, Southwest Connecticut, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. So that's an incredibly diverse region. I see my role is really being a voice for rural parts of their district, of which there are many. Just to give you a snapshot, you know, 72% of our region's population are what we consider asset limited but employed. So they're earning too much to qualify for public assistance, but not really enough to make ends meet. The barriers our neighbors face, you know, compel many especially our young people to go elsewhere for opportunity. And it's not surprising to your listeners that by 2030 60% of the residents of this region will be over the age of 60. That's the kind of information we need to be sharing with our economic policy decision makers and they need to be tracking those kinds of trends as they think about economic policy.

So how does that policy then move forward? I mean, if you're saying we need to do something about this, you tell the Federal Reserve Bank of New York about it, how does that eventually get to become policy?

So again, their researchers, how they're thinking about banking and monetary policy, needs to be thinking about all people not just those with the most to gain. So that's the perspective we'll be bringing to their decision making, to their analysis so they'll be thinking about an economy that really works for everyone.

You mentioned that you want to bring representatives from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to the region again. How important will it be to have those feet on the ground seeing what's actually happening up here?

I personally think it would be terrifically important. Many of the people that run the Second District, you know they work in, the bank is based in Wall Street. They're working, they're walking the streets of Manhattan, of New York. So getting their feet, you know, a little bit dirty, getting their feet in rural America so they can see the distances between our towns, so they can see, you know, the small mom and pop businesses, you know, some of our boarded up Main Streets. That kind of on the ground visitation is critical for people in decision making power.

When I took a look at the charter for the advisory group, it says that it can have up to 10 to 15 members. But when I looked, right now it looks pretty elite. There's only five members. How strong do you feel your voice is going to be on this community advisory group?

So again, I want to stress it's a community advisory group so we're really just there to provide advice. I think they're in a rebuilding phase there. The last meeting I was just at, a number of members were cycling off and they're bringing new members on over the next couple of meetings. So we're in kind of a transition period. But I was sitting right next to President John C. Williams during the meeting. So they are listening to us. So I feel that they do deeply care about the region that they are responsible for.

Do you know if anyone from the North Country region, Northern New York, has ever served on the advisory group before?

Yes, in fact, my former colleague Kate Fish was on the same council before. She was the head of the Adirondack North Country Association in the past. So there has been a history of representation from our region and I replaced an excellent person from Buffalo who's just stepped off.

How excited are you to be on this group?

I'm very excited. Bringing the information and voices of the people of the of the Adirondack North Country region down to New York City is an honor and a privilege. And I'm really excited to see what I can bring back from the Federal Reserve Bank to this region.

Cali Brooks will serve a three-year term on the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Community Advisory Group. She can be reappointed.