Atlanta — along with El Paso, Texas; Long Beach, California; Newark, New Jersey; and Rochester, New York — recently was selected for City Accelerator, a joint effort of the Citi Foundation and Living Cities to improve communities across the country. All five cities, where people of color represent a majority of the population, will receive a $100,000 grant to support local business and job growth.
"Cities can have a disproportionately positive impact on local entrepreneurial ecosystems and the creation of good jobs,” says Living Cities President and CEO Ben Hecht. “The cities in this latest initiative will be showing how they can harness all their assets to support and grow businesses owned by the nation’s fastest growing populations — people of color — and help to close racial gaps in wealth and income in their own backyards.”
Invest Atlanta, the city’s economic development authority, will lead the project in partnership with the Mayor’s Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and Office of Innovation and Performance to provide access to affordable real estate and technical assistance to small business owners in Southside communities. The initiative will launch at Pittsburgh Yards, a 31-acre redevelopment project that aims to catalyze living-wage employment, long-term career and entrepreneurship opportunities for residents in NPU-V and surrounding neighborhoods.
"Creating innovative ways to build opportunity and equity through job growth, business incubation and workforce training is a priority for our administration and our city," says Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. "Our vision […] includes a city where neighborhoods, communities and businesses thrive. We look forward to working with the Citi Foundation and Living Cities through the City Accelerator to realize that goal."
The Annie E. Casey Foundation, which owns Pittsburgh Yards, will work with Invest Atlanta and the mayor’s team to help address major challenges experienced by small businesses and entrepreneurs of color: limited access to capital based on traditional underwriting criteria, debt service payment capabilities, difficulty purchasing commercial space and preparing for business growth.
“The Casey Foundation’s focus in redeveloping Pittsburgh Yards has always been on providing more equitable opportunities for residents in Southwest Atlanta,” says Kweku Forstall, director of the Foundation’s Atlanta Civic Site. “We’re excited that this funding has been secured and hopeful that it will seed meaningful activity for entrepreneurs in Pittsburgh and surrounding communities.”
The grant will be used to reserve several commercial spaces at Pittsburgh Yards that the program’s participating small business owners can purchase. In addition to funding, Atlanta and the four other cities will receive a combination of coaching, technical assistance and implementation resources over the coming year.
“To achieve and sustain equitable growth, we need to ensure that businesses across the city have access to the resources and assistance they need to compete in Atlanta’s growing economy,” says Mayor Bottoms. “The real estate development program at Pittsburgh Yards will be a catalytic project to spur economic activity in Southwest Atlanta communities by creating new opportunities for area business owners and emerging enterprises.”
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