Row home facades on a residential street off Germantown Avenue in the Germantown section of Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
By Ayana Jones
PHILADELPHIA — A coalition representing hundreds of business owners, advocates and experts is urging city leaders to invest American Rescue Plan funding into Black businesses and communities.
The Black Business Leadership Coalition of Greater Philadelphia called on Mayor Jim Kenney and City Council to prioritize strengthening the Department of Commerce with a $10 million investment that would fund the coalition’s strategic plan to build wealth in communities through prioritizing the development of Black businesses.
The coalition also asked for an additional investment of $10 million for major Black-owned and led projects through the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation.
Their focus on securing targeted funding comes as the U.S. has lost an estimated 40 percent of Black-owned businesses due to the pandemic.
“The pandemic has really exacerbated the problems that Black businesses face and our problems are greater than just about any other business out there,” said John Childress, the coalition’s president.
“What we are looking for is Philadelphia City Council and also the state to invest in a new infrastructure to develop Black businesses and to grow it and to ultimately build wealth. So we feel that this is the prime time with the ARP money coming from the federal government to make an investment, which is going to produce dividends going into the future.
“That’s our focus, prioritizing our needs and doing something with these funds which is going to an investment which generates more money down the road and is not the same approach that has been used for 10 or 20 years,” he continued.
The mayor and City Council are in the midst of budget negotiations.
“Council President Clarke strongly believes that Black and brown businesses must be supported by the city and private sector,” said his spokesperson, Joe Grace.
“As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, Council has advocated for funding for Black and brown business throughout the past year and will continue to do so.”
A spokesperson from the mayor’s office said “we look forward to ongoing discussions with City Council as we work collaboratively to finalize the [fiscal year 2022] budget and five year plan.”
“The City, alongside our economic development partners including PIDC, is committed to advancing the development and growth of Black- and brown-owned businesses while driving inclusive, equitable economic growth throughout Philadelphia,” the spokesperson said in an emailed statement.
“Despite immense challenges regarding the City’s revenues, the one-time injection of American Rescue Plan dollars allows for our budget proposal to make significant investments in small businesses, especially minority-owned businesses, as well as in our neighborhoods and in education from PHLpreK to community college.”
The coalition has spent the last two years developing a strategic plan with three pillars for Black success — strengthening Black businesses and business leaders, increasing Black economic development leadership and strategizing to prioritize Black wealth.
Some coalition members include the African American Chamber of Commerce of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, Beech Interplex, Black Business Accelerator, DiverseForce Philadelphia, Entrepreneur Works, The Enterprise Center and the West Philadelphia Financial Services Institution.
Officials said investing in the coalition would help the organization create an IT workforce program that will train more than 200 people for living wage jobs, 100 new businesses in areas of growth and sustainability, 750 new jobs from Black-owned employer firms and 150 new jobs from major Black-owned projects.
The funding would also enable the coalition to work with 400 businesses to help them stay in business, help grow three Black companies to more than $5 million in revenue and develop a comprehensive Black economic development strategic plan to create an infrastructure for Black wealth growth.
Ayana Jones is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared.
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