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.  

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.