This track focused on a spectrum of business opportunities that can help vulnerable communities stimulate local development and strengthen their economic base. Participants learned about the incentive programs and resources for new and traditional business opportunities and how they can be deployed. Through peer-to-peer learning, participants explored how to navigate managing the risks that are common for new businesses; how to access start-up capital; and how businesses grow. Sessions in this track included:
Moderators: Paula Hoag and David Allen (EPA/ Office of Small Business Programs, OSBP) Speakers: Alverta Lopez (Service Core of Retired Executives, SCRE), Marium Eamen (Small Business Administration, SBA), Samira Cook (National Community Reinvestment Coalition)
This panel provided ideas and incentives for community development through business and entrepreneurial resources meant to help build capacity for the local and small business community. Each presenter provided an understanding of what programs and resources are available (on both a federal and local level) to start and/or maintain a small business, non‐profit or other locally based project, especially those that are located in vulnerable communities. Attendees benefited from this session by gaining a better understanding of how to build capacity for their community through small business development. The biggest issue that small businesses face is access to capital and lack of counseling. The speakers from federal agencies and a national non‐profit demonstrated several avenues for which underserved small businesses and entrepreneurs can gain access to financial resources and the advice they need to succeed.
Paula Hoag (EPA/OSBP)) remarked that small businesses are the lifeline of any community and integral to a thriving community. A community's wealth is what leads to continued success in terms of helping people get their start with first jobs, internships, etc. One of the biggest issues small businesses face is access to capital.
Alverta Lopez (SCRE) shared the resource SCORE which offers free small business advice including, start up assistance, managing a business, legal issues, business plans, tax planning and franchising. She encouraged small businesses to obtain an EIN number and DUNS number, identify the NAICS and SIC code for your business and register your business at www.SAM.gov. Make sure to look at government set‐asides and how the government spends through FPDS.
Marium Eamen (SBA) explained that SBA can help businesses navigate the red tape, help them grow and create jobs. SBA does not make direct loans, but can help provide access to capital, free counseling and training and contracting support. Vulnerable communities have hard times getting access to these types of resources. Some specific policies that can help connect this divide include the Small Business Loan guarantee program, SBIR program SBTT program and LINC, an online referral tool.
Samira Cook Gaines shared that NCRC is like an economic justice movement. NCRC was born out of the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977, which requires banks to reinvest back into the communities where they do business. NCRC is a grassroots organization with 600 non‐paid members that advocates for federal policies to support reinvestment in distressed, under resourced communities. They support small businesses with licensing and regulation navigation, access to capital, business opportunity, and technical assistance. Resources include the DC Women’s Business Center Services, Small Business Teaming Center Services. As well as the Dodd Frank Small business loan data bank which helps to get resources to the people that need it most. They also support small business teaming – putting small businesses together to bundle contracts in order to stay competitive with much larger companies. Additional resources include Project CUE, Dream fund – another lending platform for underserved entrepreneurs, Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization.
Stepping Outside the Box ‐ Exploring Alternative Business Models and Technical Resources to Sustain Community‐Based Profit/Non‐Profit Entities
Moderator: Dr. Erica L. Holloman (Southeast CARE Coalition/Ayika Solutions, Inc.) Speakers: Part 1 – Alternative Business Models and Technical Resources 101: Marilyn Waite (Village Capital), Tracey Woods (AABE) I Part 2 – This is How We Do It: Testimonies from The Frontlines on How to Utilize Alternative Models and Technical Resources to Support and Expand Your Business Entity: Rev. Leo M. Woodberry (Kingdom Living Temple/ New Alpha CDC), Darryl Perkins (Brocoli City Festival)
Increasingly, governmental funding sources are drying up and competition for foundation grants is getting more competitive; thus, organizations need to look to alternative revenue streams and technical opportunities. Understanding that many front line communities address and solve environmental issues in the framework of nonprofit entities, this session explored alternative business models to sustain operations while sustaining organizational missions. In addition, this session covered the importance of non‐financial technical resources and how such resources can be utilized to support and grow businesses. It's often difficult for non‐profit and community‐based for profit entities to develop a traditional business model. The four speakers focused on ways in which non‐profits can utilize alternative business models and resources to make vulnerable communities thrive and provided real testimony for how it worked for them.
Community Benefits Agreements – contractual agreements that require developers to provide specific benefits to the community in which they have projects, or where past activities have resulted in harms or adverse impacts – are one of the most important ways in which communities receive targeted investments and restitution.
Marilyn Waite with Village Capital shared that they provide capital to ventures who are trying to solve real‐world problems. They select 12 ventures out of 100+ applications to receive training and mentoring from top industry experts. The top two peer‐selected ventures receive initial investment from Village Capital. The five priority sectors include health, education, financial services, agriculture and energy. Village Capital has funded 68 peer‐selected ventures to date.
Tracy Woods with American Association of Blacks in Energy shared that AABE is a 40‐year old organization – came about during President Jimmy Carter's administration. They were founded because black populations felt underserved concerning the energy industry. AABE supports work force development and can be a great information source for new energy technologies. For example, with the EPA Clean Energy Incentive Program States can collect bonus credits for developing renewable technologies and energy efficiency programs deployed in low income communities.
Darryl Perkins with Brocoli City shared about their social enterprise whose mission is to develop innovative strategies on how to live healthier and more sustainable lifestyles. They focus on people, profit and the planet by mobilizing people to understand and respond to pressing social impact projects in their communities and aim for creating tipping points of health and wellness. For example, Brocoli City Festival in Washington, DC generated 28,500 attendees.
Rev. Leo M. Woodberry (Kingdom Living Temple/New Alpha CDC) advised on diversifying revenue beyond grant funding including ensuring board members and staff are donors, encourage community memberships, host revenue‐generating events, offer products and services, hold classes and leverage Community Benefits Agreements.
Moderators: Colber Prosper (Prosper & Partners, LLC) and Al Weaver (2Bridge Community Development Exchange) Speakers: Earl Coleman (Pearlio), Jason Townes (The Townes Group, LLC)
People every day are starting their businesses on the internet. This was an interactive session structured as an introduction to participants for taking their ideas, brand and/or business to the internet. It also covered how to use various websites and social media platforms to generate income. The internet is a resource that is accessible to everyone (as long as there is broad band access) and allows small businesses to access resources and opportunities that aren't available within the community. Presenters shared their own experiences and how they used the internet and social media to advertise their businesses and increase their clientele. Participants were given the opportunity to use a creative process to generate business ideas and/or strengthen their current ideas. The presenters gave recommendations and worked together with participants to match their ideas with various internet platforms.
Al Weaver discussed the advantages of tapping into the internet to strengthen businesses. The blog format is the trigger point of everything internet‐business related and can be used for e‐commerce or reviews. He shared 9 models of internet businesses including: 1)Advertising – viewing or pay per click, 2) Affiliate – like Amazon, 3) Brokerage – market makers buyers and sellers – like Google, provide internet “leads”, 4) Community Buying and Selling – non‐profit, crowd funding, 5) Informatory – you can sell information – eBooks , 6) Manufacturing – direct sale through website, can do a third party approach too, like Alibaba, 7) Merchant – wholesaler and retailer, 8) Subscription – recurring price model, 9) Pay as you go – free trial and then pay as you go. He also shared that you can start a for profit business, LLC, through a non‐profit, to sell accessory products through a venue like PayPal.
Colber Prosper, CEO of Prosper and Partners International, described "design thinking ‐ movements of creativity including Dreaming; Hovering = making product; Risking = piloting, taking that initial step; Listening = getting feedback, self‐reflective too; Reintegrating = whatever I’ve created, how do I better my community; and Resting = take care of yourself; taking a break after we finish what we needed to finish. He emphasized that internet opens the door to resources and opportunities that you wouldn’t be able to find in your community. Facebook is a relationship site with metric tools to see if your branding and marketing is actually working. He recommends creating an avatar – the perfect consumer, which fits your business model and humanizing your brand with social media, blogs, webinars and podcasting.
Moderator and Speaker: Charlie Bartsch (EPA/OLEM)
This session provided an overview of what’s available now, from a range of federal agencies, and what may be most suited to package into a community‐based project consistent with an equitable development strategy. There are a diverse number of tools and resources that the federal government offers to finance community development. These tools and resources – like the Economic Development Agency (EDA) and HUD's Community Development Block Group Program – not only provide resources directly, but can help to reduce the lender's risk, reduce the borrower's (i.e. the community) cost and overall improve the borrower's financial situation. Attendees were given an introduction to key federal programs in three categories:
- Traditional community development programs
- Business-focused economic development programs
- Tax incentives
Charlie Bartsch emphasized that there are a number of avenues to finance community development, some of which will have to be with the private sector. Creative partnerships for community development include: Public sector, Quasi‐public sector – housing authorities, port authorities, Non‐profits – universities, and Private sector. Tools can often provide resources directly, like grants, but they can also reduce lender’s risk, reduce borrower’s costs, improve the borrower’s financial situation. Specific resources discussed include:
EPA Brownfield Assessment, Cleanup and Revolving Loan Fund capitalization grants – can get up to
$200,000 for cleanup and assessments
HUD’s Community Development Block Grant Program. Entitlement cities and urban counties get formula‐based annual grants (must benefit low income neighborhoods, prevent vacancy, meet an urgent community need). These grants can support various redevelopment needs – demolition and removal, rehabilitation of public and private buildings, planning, providing social services, cleanup, can be lent to private companies. Projects are locally determined and all activities must be included in action plan that is presented to HUD.
Economic Development Administration (EDA) provides public works grants to finance site re‐development, building reuse and infrastructure preparation for economic dislocation program – like a plant closing. Can also provide planning through Economic Development Districts (EDDs.) There is limited funding and significant competition. Unemployment rates are a key factor for selection process, often also rural areas and small towns.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) rural development can provide planning for redevelopment or revitalization, site clearance/preparation, rehabilitation or improvement of sites or structures. State USDA offices have significant influence on who gets funding.
- U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) Highway and Transit Programs finance roads, highways, area‐wide planning, public transit construction and operations. Must be linked to transportation; communities must work through states, Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) and projects must fit MPO plan; DOT TIGER grants are extremely competitive
- SBA loan and loan guarantee programs include Section 7(a) guaranteed loan program and the Community Development Corporation (section 504) program.
- Federal Tax incentives for community redevelopment including Historic rehabilitation tax credits –rehabilitation costs must be substantial; property must be income‐producing; New Markets tax credits; Low‐income housing tax credits
Participants were encouraged to ask specific questions about program application and usefulness and to share their experiences with federal resources – what’s worked, what hasn’t, and why.