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Empowering Black Businesses: Client Spotlight on Economic Equity

This Black History Month we are celebrating the work of our clients who have created standout programs that support, uplift, and highlight the great work of Black-owned businesses and entrepreneurs in their communities. 


At Fourth Economy, we center equity as a core tenant around which to approach community planning, economic analysis, public engagement, and strategy development for a stronger and more inclusive future. We believe human-centered economies are at the heart of resilient communities where all people feel that they belong and have opportunities to thrive. This has led us to commit to daylighting historic economic disparities where they have led to inequitable outcomes for communities that have traditionally been left out of economic and community development processes. 


In our client communities, this has meant working with advocates who are correcting for historic prohibition of access to capital, home ownership, and other important wealth building mechanisms for Black community members. For instance:


A bustling main street in York County, Pennsylvania.


With the York County Economic Alliance, we evaluated the inequities that exist for Black and Hispanic/Latino residents living in York County, Pennsylvania, in terms of wages, employment, and business ownership during the development of the county’s Economic Action Plan. The resulting recommendations led to the creation of the BLOOM Business Empowerment Center which has been making great strides in bridging the gap for underserved and underrepresented entrepreneurs. To date BLOOM has provided over $480,000 in micro-grants and $600,000 in start-up and growth capital, as well as focused on education, technical assistance, and networking specifically targeted toward BIPOC-owned businesses.


Our efforts developing an organizational strategic plan for Regional Economic Development Initiative, Inc. (REDI) in Columbia, Missouri, helped develop a new regional focus on supporting minority entrepreneurs via the REDI Hub, which offers mentorship, networking, and access to City and community resources. Following the completion of the plan, REDI hired its first Minority Business Coordinator with great early success. Over just the last couple years, the number of Minority and Women Owned Businesses (MWBE's) in the REDI Hub increased from 34 in June 2021, to 123 of 174 total clients as of November 2023, and the number of MWBEs listed in the City of Columbia's Minority and Women Owned Business Directory increased from 222 to 261 over that same time period. 


Image of Neighborhood Allies team courtesy of their website.


Neighborhood Allies in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is an organization that we frequently partner with, as they are working to create vibrant neighborhoods with a mix of programs including one focused on supporting new small scale and neighborhood real estate developers with training and financial support. In 2022, Neighborhood Allies launched the Neighborhood Capital Program, which provides investment capital for local Black developers and Black communities in Western Pennsylvania. This complements the work of their Centralized Real Estate Accelerator Program, “which provides strategic guidance, feasibility assessment, budgeting and proforma development, fundraising consultation, and support around identifying and assembling a development team.” Over the last two years this program has provided over 1,540 hours of support to 45 community development projects, 84 percent of which are led by Black developers, Black business owners, or nonprofits with Black leadership.    


 

These initiatives are just a few examples of the great work our clients are doing to increase access to economic opportunity for BIPOC leadership in their communities. This April we will be in San Antonio, Texas, sharing the standout work of these organizations as co-panelists at the International Conference on Business Incubation (inBIA) 2024 Conference. Please join us if you can. We’re always interested in working with communities that are elevating the diverse contributions of talent in their regions!

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