Moving You Forward Expo aims to include everyone in Flint and Genesee County’s resurgence

Moving You Forward Expo aims to include everyone in Flint and Genesee County’s resurgence

There is an evolution happening in Flint and Genesee County, where the road to regional recovery has been a steep one due to major plant closings and Flint’s water crisis.  Despite these and other challenges, there are solid signs that residents are making inroads and moving toward a better tomorrow for themselves and their neighbors.

The ‘we’re-all-in-the-same-boat’ attitude borne from being thrown into crisis together remains in place and has become an integral part of the strength region, which is in the process of revitalization, says Grace Taylor, Metro Community Development’s outreach coordinator.

And, as more businesses —big and small — are setting down roots and bringing opportunity and hope, residents want a piece of the prosperity pie. 

“People are absolutely hungry for change and want to create better lives. They want more. They are ready for more,” Taylor says.

Taylor’s organization is meeting this regional readiness in a really big way through their partnership with Huntington Bank and the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA). Together, they are presenting the Moving You Forward Opportunity Expo. The massive, open-house resource fair is slated to feature about 50 vendors and will be held at Kettering University on Oct. 9 from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m.  

“We’ll have resources for employment opportunities, banking, credit, auto loans, debt consolidation, home ownership and more,” says Taylor.

Recognizing how not having access to a working car can be a barrier to financial opportunities and well-being, the Forge Garage opened in 2017 and has assisted more than 80 families to date. The program has saved each family $500 on average. Aaron Dunigan (shown here) heads up the operations. Photo by Josh Kennedy

Experts will be on hand to help steer expo visitors to programs that provide free funding for home repairs and other services, as well as low and no-cost programs like Forge Garage’s auto repair program, which is saving area residents $500 or more on auto repair costs.

The garage, which offers most services except for engine and transmission repair, has been in operation for a little less than two years now. During that time, they have helped more than 80 families. 

“A significant portion of the expo is dedicated to financial resources. That is the most important resource. Without it, your hands are literally tied, which often takes a toll on you physically and mentally,” says Taylor.

Metro has long recognized that training residents — especially those with past economic challenges — in financial fitness is a crucial gateway to a more stable tomorrow. Their program Money Games: Understanding the Rules serves to create a more level financial playing field for many people.

Metro Community Development’s ‘Money Games’ program serves to create a more level financial playing field for many people. Representatives will be on hand to enroll participants in upcoming sessions and provide private one-on-one financial counseling personalized to meet each individual attendees’ needs.

The program involves a series of interactive workshops that discuss the basics of money management from what to look for when purchasing a car to how-tos like managing a bank account, building an emergency savings fund for when life happens, shopping for insurance, budgeting in spending plans and funding retirement. 

Metro Community Foundation’s Vice President of Asset Development David Leclerc says that Expo participants will have the opportunity to experience the value of one-on-one financial coaching sessions that “serve as the foundation of personalized game plans specific to their unique needs and circumstances.”

Participants will also be able to participate in private one-on-one counseling sessions about credit basics such as how to read a credit report and the steps to getting things corrected if there are errors.

“These workshops provide the basics of understanding the rules of the game of money management,” says Taylor.

“Once we understand a program participant’s financial needs, we conduct one-on-one coaching sessions to help them draw up personalized game plans specific to their unique needs and circumstances,” says David Leclerc, Metro’s vice president of asset development.

Money Games participants value the program, which makes them feel like they are not alone, according to Leclerc, who emphasizes the caring compassion of Metro’s credit counselors and the personalization of credit recovery plans as what sets Metro’s program apart from more generic credit seminars. 

The program, originally designed to provide home buyer education to people who wanted to buy, or were close to buying their first home, was tweaked following Metro’s observation that the number of first-time home buyers in the community was in steep decline.

“When we started to investigate possibilities as to why this was occurring, one of the major items we discovered was that Flint had credit (score) problems,” says Leclerc, who notes a 2016 study conducted by Lendedu and Experian Credit ranked Flint near the bottom of a national credit survey with an average score of 599.

It was this alarming rate that led Metro to alter its program in 2018. The organization shifted its focus on home buying to financial literacy and education. 

Leclerc explains that although a credit score of 599 will not prohibit area residents from getting credit for car and other loans, it near guarantees they will be charged extremely high interest rates.

Professional photographer Alvin J. Brown is among Flint’s ‘Money Masters.” The young  professional “spends less and saves more” than many of his peers. His healthy habits enabled the then 25 year-old to purchase his first home.  Photo courtesy of Vantrell Irving

In the case of a car loan, this might translate into a thousand dollars or more in additional interest costs over an individual with an average credit score, according to Leclerc.

 Credit scores are also used to determine if a customer will pay higher insurance costs,” says Leclerc. “And they are increasingly used by employers who rely upon credit scores to gauge a prospective employees’ reliability and fiscal competence.”

Taylor is quick to point out how working toward higher individual credit scores can benefit the entire regional landscape.

“If the county could increase their overall credit score then all of us would benefit from cheaper insurance policies,” she says. “It would allow people an easier time affording homes, and homeowners are often more protective of their communities than renters.”

Increasing the number of owner-occupied homes in Flint and Genesee County translates to better kept neighborhoods and higher ‘curb appeal,’ a critical factor in housing valuation, according to real estate expert and Flipping Flint Founder Nykole Pfaff 

Echoing that sentiment is Nykole Pfaff, a prominent local real estate broker and owner of Flipping Flint, who has witnessed the correlation between home ownership and upkeep. 

“Bottom line,” says Pfaff. “Homeowners take better care of their properties than renters, who are not incentivized to take care of their landlords’ property.”

And having more owner-occupied homes means neighborhoods will be better kept and have higher ‘curb appeal,’ which is a critical factor in housing valuation.

Well-kept homes and neighborhoods sell, according to Pfaff.

“I personally live in the College Cultural Area in Flint,” says Pfaff. “I absolutely love watching the community grow with young and old professionals, with people who take pride in ownership and only want to see our city grow and prosper.” 

The link between good credit, home ownership and community resurgence is also extolled by Moving You Forward Opportunity Expo partner MSHDA, which will have Step Forward Michigan experts on hand to help aspiring homeowners with financial assistance. 

“Home ownership is a vehicle that creates wealth-building opportunities. It’s a vehicle that people can use to create equity in their lives which can help them get their son or daughter to college, or start a business in the community,” says Van Adams, a departmental analyst and outreach specialist at MSHDA. 

He adds that MSHDA is focused on opportunities in Flint and Genesee County. 

Why?

Homeownership is a gateway to economic prosperity, according to Adams, who would like to see more inclusionary development across the state.

A part of MSHDA’s strength is its ability to champion affordability so that no one is left behind and everyone has the opportunity to live in decent and affordable housing, according to Van Adams, a departmental analyst and outreach specialist at MSHDA. 

“Our strength is being able to champion affordability so that no one is left behind and everyone has the opportunity to live in decent and affordable housing,” says Adams.

Expo participants can talk to MSHDA representatives about its credit repair program and how to acquire the organization’s help in getting to a place where they can purchase their own home or live in a better rental. 

“Many people want to own their own home, but have challenges, whether it’s health, or credit. We want to help eliminate as many barriers to home ownership as possible,” Adams says.

Barriers of all kinds will be addressed at the upcoming expo. One of the most common challenges Taylor has heard from people in the community is that they don’t know where to start when embarking on the path to better opportunities. She’d argue that a good first step would be through the doors of the Moving You Forward Opportunity Expo.

Editor’s Note: More than 50 exhibitors will be on hand at the Moving You Forward Opportunity Expo. The free event will take place on Wednesday, Oct. 9 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Kettering University. 

The following exhibitors will be on hand at the event, according to Expo organizers:

Burton Glen Charter Academy /Linden Charter Academy

Chemical Bank

City of Flint Mayor’s Office

Communication Access Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Inc. (CAC) 

Community Housing Resource Board (CHRB)

Consumers Energy

Empowerment Plan

Fifth Third Bank

Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce 

Flint Registry – Greater Flint Health Coalition

Genesee County Habitat for Humanity

Genesee County Land Bank/Genesee County Treasurer’s Office

Genesee County Metropolitan Planning Commission

Genesee County Prevention Coalition

Genesee Health Plan

Genesee Health System

Goodwill Industries of Mid Michigan

Greater Flint Health Coalition

GST Michigan Works!

Hamilton Community Health Network

HAP 

Holy Cross Services Michigan

Home Depot

Huntington Bank 

Hurley Medical Center

Kettering University FIRST Robotics Team

Legal Services of Eastern Michigan 

MCC Workforce & Economic Development 

McLaren Flint

Michigan State University College of Human Medicine – Flint

Molina Healthcare

Mott Community College (MCC)

MSHDA – Michigan State Housing Development Authority

Neighborhood Engagement Hub

Oak Street Health

Planet Fitness

Planned Parenthood – Flint Health Center

Ross Mortgage Corporation

Shelter of Flint, Inc.

Sovita Credit Union 

Sylvester Broome Empowerment Village 

UM-Flint: Office of University Outreach

USDA Rural Development 

Wellness Services, Inc.

YMCA of Greater Flint 

YWCA Flint

 

 

 

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