OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma City is making intentional investments to ensure minority-owned small businesses have the resources they need to grow and thrive, but there’s still a lot of work to do.
Persistent racial and geographic disparities and generational poverty continue to limit people of color’s access to business credit, investment capital and mentorship, Mayor David Holt wrote in a recent opinion piece in The Hill. , co-authored by Levar Stoney, Mayor of Richmond, Virginia.
Both mayors highlighted the investments their cities have made to address disparities. “This will not only empower these entrepreneurs, but strengthen our entire economy for years to come,” they said. wrote.
“Oklahoma City is moving in the right direction with the investment commitment, but there are still gaps,” said black business owner Quintin Hughes, noting that only 2% of small business owners are black. Meanwhile, the US Census reports that 14% of the city’s residents are black.
“There really is an opportunity for growth there,” Hughes said. “I am optimistic about the investment we have committed to and the possibility of achieving parity. The concern is that we continue to invest in it and even more.
Hughes is co-owner of Kindred Spirits, a bar and gathering space in the EastPoint development. EastPoint is in the 1700 block of NE 23rd Street, which was once a bustling commercial corridor.
It took more than a year for Hughes and his business partners to secure the $100,000 financing needed for their project because the location was on the east side, where lenders had avoided investing for decades, a he declared.
Years of divestment and the resulting economic situation in the region have made it nearly impossible to convince lenders that a project there might be viable, Hughes said.
In fact, EastPoint developer Jonathan Dodson said 26 banks refused to fund the development before Citizens Bank of Edmond agreed.
Dodson’s Pivot Project Development purchased two buildings totaling 38,000 square feet. The first became the new home of Centennial Health, a community clinic. The first tenant in the second building was Intentional Fitness, followed by Kindred Spirits. The complex is also home to The Market at Eastpoint.
Pivot granted an equity interest in the project to EastPoint tenants. Those who sign a 10-year lease have 15% ownership of their spaces.
This is the kind of community building that Northeast OKC Renaissance Inc. members advocate, Hughes said. The group’s goal is interior development to improve the quality of life for residents of northeast Oklahoma City through economic prosperity and the preservation of cultural traditions.
EastPoint’s success will make it easier to secure funding for future projects in the area, but there are concerns about what those projects might be, Hughes said.
“The fear in our community is displacement, the fear of cultural erasure,” he said, “essentially what Deep Deuce is today.”
The once predominantly African-American downtown neighborhood has been revitalized to the point that black-owned and operated businesses have been depleted.
“A big opportunity here is to learn from communities across the country that have suffered from gentrification,” Hughes said. “We want people here to take advantage of economic opportunities. We seek an ally rather than an exploitation.
One example of Oklahoma City’s investment in minority-owned small businesses was the creation of the Small Business Continuity Program, using federal relief funds to help businesses overcome challenges caused by COVID-19.
The OKC Rescue Program provides small business owners and nonprofit organizations with 100 or fewer full-time employees a second round of financial support to cover business services such as marketing, accounting, or business planning. , exterior facade improvements or COVID-19 mitigation expenses such as outdoor ventilation and seating.
Hughes, who works asstrategic advisor for community development at Echo Investment Capital, said the company had “shown its willingness to put its money where it is”.
“My role allows me to create impact investment funds focused on real estate and small business development in northeast Oklahoma City,” he said.
Part of the solution is educating entrepreneurs about alternative access to capital and venture capital opportunities, Hughes said. The future of the city The Henrietta B. Foster Center for Small Business Development and Entrepreneurship of the Northeast will be an important part of the education process, he said.
MAPS 4 includes $15 million for the center, which will focus on minority and disadvantaged small businesses.
“This town will be in a better place in five years, 10 years, 20 years,” Hughes said.