Businesses and communities across the southern U.S. affected adversely by the COVID-19 pandemic will receive a huge boost from a new partnership that includes nine historically Black colleges and universities (HBCU) and seven cities.
The Deep South Economic Mobility Collaborative, led by the Hope Enterprise Corporation and with a potential $130 million infusion from the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses, is aiming to empower small businesses while kickstarting job growth in areas that have been beset by “poverty and racial disparities” during the past year.
Colleges and universities taking part in the initiative will be asked to provide their expertise in a number of areas, including strategic business planning, marketing guidance and procurement opportunities, according to the DSEMC. The chance to collaborate on a mission that will boost the collective economic power of Birmingham, Montgomery, Little Rock, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Jackson and Memphis along with entrepreneurs was a no-brainer for HBCUs, who also have so much to gain.
“Southern University and A&M College is excited for the opportunity to partner with national leaders to advance small business opportunities for Black entrepreneurs in our community,” said Southern University and A&M College President-Chancellor Dr. Ray Belton. “As an anchor institution, we are poised to assist thousands of Black and women-owned businesses.”
The other eight institutions that will be assisting in this enormous economic mobility effort include Alabama State University, Miles College, Philander Smith College, Southern University and A&M College, Xavier University, Dillard University, Jackson State University, Tougaloo College, and LeMoyne-Owen College.
The coalition expects nearly 5,000 small businesses and 30,000 employees to be impacted by this endeavor, which is also getting the backing of the Ford Foundation, the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies and the continued generosity of philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, who has donated billions to HBCUs over the past year.
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For many businesses in the Deep South, the struggle to survive since the start of the pandemic has been difficult. More than 40% have closed, while White businesses haven’t seen the same kind of impact (17%). The coalition also noted that the disparity in value between businesses located in those Southern cities is greater than those in other parts of the U.S.
Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses is one group that is helping to provide stability and capital, as well as education and other supports. Its name recognizes more than 10,000 business owners who have gone through its training program. Hope is another organization that helps generates financing for businesses throughout the South.
“For centuries, racism and economic inequality has thwarted human and economic potential in the Deep South, but our story doesn’t end there,” said Bill Bynum, CEO of Hope. “Equipped with opportunity and the right tools, people of this region can accomplish anything. Fueled by their resilience, and harnessing the collective resources of DSEMC, together we will knock down the barriers facing underserved businesses and communities in a way that has never been done before. The collaborative will help build a more inclusive economy that will yield benefits now and for future generations.”