The good news of Phoenix Bank

Published 11:09 pm Saturday, February 20, 2010

Sometimes — and perhaps especially in the midst of a crisis — it helps to get a little good news. Virginia’s Fourth District Congressman J. Randy Forbes had a taste of that experience on Friday during a two-hour work session with administrative leaders and department heads for the city of Suffolk.

There were plenty of reasons for glum faces on both sides of the table during that meeting. Forbes is frustrated at having been unable to do much to arrest the out-of-control spending that has come to be the order of business in Washington, adding thousands of dollars to each household’s portion of the national debt in just the past couple of years alone. City officials, on the other hand, are worried about the cumulative effects of impending reductions to state and federal programs, from education to transportation to health care.

Both Forbes and local officials also share a healthy worry about the state of the jobs market in Suffolk. With the pending closure of International Paper Co.’s Franklin mill, plus a recession that drags on nationwide and a housing market that seems unable to rebound, the employment situation in Western Tidewater is the elephant in the room that cannot be ignored.


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But on Friday, there were some things to celebrate, after all. One of those things is the Phoenix Bank renovation, a project close to Forbes’ heart because of his friendship with the late Helen Daughtrey, the former NAACP branch vice president who was instrumental in getting the project approved and off the ground. City officials shared the good news with the congressman on Friday that the project — which will renovate a bank that was established in 1919 by a group of black entrepreneurs and served the black farmers and laborers of Suffolk and Nansemond County until its demise in 1931 — is almost ready for construction.

Sometimes we have to accept small victories as momentary relief in the midst of great adversity. The Phoenix Bank project will be one of those small victories that helps Suffolk thrive through the economic crisis. We’re glad the city was able to share the good news about it with Congressman Forbes, and Suffolk’s citizens should be proud that he has been such a staunch supporter of so worthwhile a project.