Newark Receives Grant to Foster Minority-Owned Businesses

One of five cities in country chosen for small aid program, Newark still eyes the big prize — Amazon’s HQ2

Still in the mix as a finalist for Amazon’s coveted second corporate headquarters, Newark continued with its run of good luck yesterday when the city was chosen as one of only five in the country to receive a $100,000 “city accelerator” grant to help support minority-owned businesses.

Newark officials said the grant funding from Citibank’s Citi Foundation and the Living Cities philanthropic organization will go toward small-business management training and to support a referral service that links city-based businesses and entrepreneurs with potential clients.

In addition to the grant, the city will have access to other resources including economic-development coaching and technical assistance. Other cities selected for the $100,000 grants were Atlanta, Ga.; El Paso, Tx.; Long Beach, Calif.; and Rochester, New York. All five are considered to be “majority minority,” meaning racial minorities make up a majority of each city’s population compared to the nation as a whole.

“Newark is a city on the rise and we look forward to working with Citi Foundation and Living Cities as we use every tool in our toolkit to ensure that development is inclusive,” said Newark Mayor Ras Baraka.

The state’s largest city, Newark has been in the midst of an economic-development revival as it recasts itself as a burgeoning tech center, including by promoting the high-capacity internet fiber that’s buried underneath its sidewalks.

Billions of dollars on line for Amazon project

Newark’s efforts to revitalize also received a boost earlier this year when it was named a finalist among North American cities seeking to attract what Amazon is calling its HQ2 project. The Seattle-based company is promising to pour up to $5 billion in new investment into the proposed facility and will hire as many as 50,000 employees.

Company officials have emphasized the key features they’re seeking in the HQ2 site, including proximity to major urban centers, high-level tech talent, and a “think big” outlook.

State lawmakers earlier this year approved a package of tax incentives worth up to $5 billion for the Amazon project. Economic-development officials have estimated it could ultimately generate $9 billion in economic activity for the Garden State. The city also recently approved a payroll-tax break for Amazon that could be worth up to $1 billion. While Amazon officials have kept information about its ongoing site-selection process close to the vest, the company’s next update could come as early as this month.

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka
In the meantime, Newark officials are celebrating the city’s selection yesterday for the latest round of city-accelerator grants from the Citi Foundation and Living Cities. According to those officials, $75,000 out of the grant will go to the city’s Contractors Development Initiative to fund training classes for up to 30 minority and women small-business leaders. The classes will cover issues like contract law, bonding, marketing and how to write business plans.

The remainder of the grant will be used by Newark’s Business Services Providers Network, which holds quarterly meetings and shares databases and other resources to better link city-based business leaders and entrepreneurs with potential clients and other business-development resources, city officials said.

Baraka said the accelerator grant would help get some of his administration’s core economic-development initiatives “off the ground.”

‘Close racial gaps in wealth and income’

“Whether ensuring that anchor institutions commit to increasing purchasing from Newark businesses or large developers partner with smaller minority and women-owned contractors, we are implementing unique programs to drive local procurement,” he said.

Ed Skyler, Citi’s executive vice president for global public affairs and chair of the Citi Foundation, said the potential of minority-owned small businesses is often overlooked, even as small businesses themselves are generally considered to be a crucial part of the overall economy.

“These cities recognize this untapped potential and are coming together to rethink how they work with minority-owned small businesses to help them grow and create high-quality jobs,” Sklyer said of the accelerator-grant recipients.

According to Living Cities, the city-accelerator program has funded grants over the last five years to help cities “test new approaches that improve the lives of residents, especially those with low incomes.” Prior grants helped fund re-entry programs in Baltimore and assisted officials in Seattle with an effort to better integrate racially diverse communities into neighborhood planning efforts.

“The cities in this latest initiative will be showing how they can harness all of 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,” said Ben Hecht, Living Cities’ chief executive.