Community leaders present for the special stimulus announcement at the African American Chamber of Commerce (AACC), were, from left, Jason Dunn, AACC Board Chair, Eric Kearney, AACC President/CEO, Darren Redus, Minority Business Accelerator Senior Vice President and Executive Director, Mayor John Cranley, Eddie Koen, Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio President/CEO, Willie Hill, Greater Cincinnati Microenterprise Initiative Executive Director, and Sheila Mixon, Women’s Business Enterprise Council Ohio River Valley. Photo by Walter White, Sesh Communications Senior Vice President
By Dan Yount
The Cincinnati Herald
Minority-owned businesses in Cincinnati could gain financial support to help them weather the COVID-19 shutdowns and restrictions if the City Council approves setting aside $4 million from stimulus funds received from the American Recovery Act, the latest round of stimulus funding being distributed in President Joe Biden’s effort to get Americans back on their feet. The initiative is known as Ascend-Cincy.
Mayor John Cranley was joined March 25 by the leadership of the Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio, the African American Chamber of Commerce, and the Minority Business Accelerator at the African American Chamber to announce a stimulus proposal intended to support local minority-owned businesses that have been hit hardest by the Coronavirus pandemic. Data shows 30 percent of Black-owned businesses closed due to the impacts of the economic recession caused by the pandemic.
These three organizations intend to collaborate on creating an ecosystem that incubates minority business growth from start-up or microenterprise phase, (revenue from $0 to $150,000) to growth phase, (revenue from $150,000 to $1 million) to expansion phase (revenue above $1 million). This was the second in a series of announcements made by the mayor regarding the use of federal stimulus funds. The city currently invests in the Urban League and African American Chamber to build and sustain minority-owned businesses and this proposal bolsters those efforts.
“This is going to be transformative in Cincinnati,” said Chamber President Eric Kearney.
“This is an exciting opportunity to double the number of Black-owned businesses in Cincinnati. We are glad to work with the Urban League and Mayor John Cranley on this initiative. We are going to rely on other organizations to accomplish our goal, such as The Greater Cincinnati Microenterprise Initiative and MORTAR Cincinnati (which aims to create diverse communities by enabling marginalized entrepreneurs to access resources needed to start and run successful businesses).”
The funds could be used to provide staffing, accounting, business resources, financing coaching and other services to Black-owned businesses.
The proposal and other proposals that will be made for distributing the funds must be approved by the city’s Budget and Finance Committee and City Council, and Cranley says he thinks members of the council are on board to pass its proposal.
However, while some council members, who said they were taken by surprise by the announcment, said they would support this use of a portion of the funds. They said they wish Cranley would have consulted with them before making the announcements, for they also have suggestions about how the funds should be spent. They also suggest community leaders should be included in the process.
Some of the other key officials present for the announcement were Eddie Keon, President/CEO of the Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio, and Darrin Redus, Minority Business Accelerator, Senior Vice President and Executive Director, and business owner.