Cash registers ring at the neighborhood diner.

People drop by the utilities office to pay their bill.

Mayoral candidates deliver stump speeches to voters.

The town square is abuzz with the sounds of commerce. Welcome to Junior Achievement Biztown.

During the past year, Regions associates in Charlotte, North Carolina, have volunteered their time to teach the fundamentals of money management to elementary students as part of Junior Achievement of Central Carolinas’ flagship program.

A 9,000-square foot mock town complete with 15 storefronts – a Regions sign hangs from one of them – JA Biztown offers fourth, fifth and sixth graders the opportunity to put the business basics they’ve studied into practice. For several action-filled hours, youth transform into CEOs, bankers, politicians, reporters and more. For students, it’s serious business.

“JA Biztown is a one-day experience that students will remember for years,” said Terry Katon, Regions’ Charlotte Market Executive and head of the bank’s Capital Markets group. “Our team members enjoy being part of this unique learning environment. We can encourage students to explore what it means to be an entrepreneur, discover why job-readiness skills matter and help them think about their financial future.”

JA Biztown is one of several initiatives that Regions’ Charlotte associates have adopted during the past year. Along with Junior Achievement, associates conducted financial education sessions at The Relatives Inc. crisis center for youth and provided support to Boy Scout Troop 118, among helping other organizations. Team members volunteered more than 500 hours of service in 2018 alone.

Regions’ commitment to making life better in Mecklenburg County and beyond is capturing attention. In February, Regions was recognized as a Spirit of North Carolina Award recipient by United Way of the Central Carolinas. The award honors businesses for their leadership through both financial contributions and volunteerism.

“The Spirit Awards celebrate the collaborative character that defines our communities,” said Laura Clark, President and CEO of United Way of the Central Carolinas. “We rely on our corporate partners to help address several of the area’s greatest needs. When companies like Regions invest in programs and encourage their team members to volunteer, we can help our neighbors reach their full potential.”

At JA Biztown, students can run a local Regions “branch” — and try their hands at any number of other businesses.

The growth of Regions’ partnerships with JA Biztown and additional nonprofits mirrors the growth of the bank’s presence in Charlotte. In April 2018, the bank moved to a new, centralized Uptown location allowing business groups that were previously divided between four different facilities to collaborate seamlessly in a new, state-of-the-art space. The Uptown location also features a modernized branch that opened in July 2018.

“Having our group together under one roof allows us to more thoughtfully and effectively serve our clients as well as our community,” said Katon. “We can now bring a full team of experts from across several business groups to the table to provide solutions our clients need. We can also more quickly gather a group of associates to participate in a one-day community project.”

The market enlisted this same collaborative approach in hosting a “Real Talk” session with singer-songwriter and entrepreneur Holly Williams in January 2019. Led by the market’s Private Wealth Management group, clients and associates from a variety of business groups attended the event held at the Mint Museum Uptown.

Regions’ clients, associates and community partners celebrated the completion of its new, centralized Charlotte Uptown location in July 2018.

The Private Wealth Management team is also part of Regions’ growing local presence. New team members have joined in recent months, and Area Business Manager Dennis Blue is focused on reaching more clients across the North Carolina, Middle Tennessee and East Tennessee markets.

“Charlotte is a banking town, and there’s no shortage of great talent in this market. We’re proud to have highly experienced, highly dedicated members on our team, and our focus has been growing that team even more,” said Blue. “One aspect that helps set Regions apart is the collaborative nature of our teams. We work across business groups to develop customized plans for clients, leveraging the expertise of our people here in Charlotte and throughout the company. We call that ‘Regions360.’ Our clients see it as a more seamless, more tailored customer experience.”

The Charlotte market continues to house several specialized business groups serving clients across the country, including the Energy and Natural Resources team led by Brian Tate and the Specialized Industries sector of Technology, Media and Communications banking, led by David Sozio.

Katon views the team’s growth as an opportunity to pay it forward by devoting additional resources toward supporting the Charlotte community. That makes the Biztown partnership all the more rewarding.

The build-out of the Regions storefront at the new JA Center was recently completed. It’s a sight that makes Katon especially proud as he thinks about Regions associates rolling up their sleeves to help educate students and make a difference throughout the area.

Similar to successful commerce at JA Biztown, achieving growth always means going the extra mile.

Students learn a variety of business skills through JA Biztown’s interactive, onsite approach. /PHOTO COURTESY OF JUNIOR ACHIEVEMENT OF CENTRAL CAROLINAS