In support of a key initiative in Erie’s Inclusive Playbook, Diverse Erie, the Erie Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Commission, leveraged $500,000 to launch a $2 million fund that will support the creation and growth of BIPOC-owned businesses in Erie County. The Diverse Erie Small Business Fund was launched at a press conference today with investors outside Beez Appliance.
“The Small Business Fund is truly a meaningful and sustainable program that will not only support business growth among local BIPOC-owned businesses, but also help to attract companies to Erie County,” said Gerald L. Blanks, Diverse Erie Board Chairperson. “This fund also represents the power of leveraging funds to advance economic development goals to support future generations.”
The commission earmarked $500,000 and leveraged those funds by bringing together public and private partners to create the $2,000,000 fund. Fund contributors include:
- Erie County Redevelopment Authority (ECRDA): $250,000
- Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority (ECGRA): $250,000
- Erie Community Foundation (ECF): $250,000
- Greater Erie Economic Development Corporation (GEEDC): $250,000
- Enterprise Development Fund (EDF): $500,000
“This initiative is so important because it specifically works to empower and lift up Erie’s Black community — it serves to help build equity among business owners and improve outcomes,” said Kyra Taylor, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Erie’s Black Wall Street. “By investing in local BIPOC businesses we are helping them to grow and succeed, while attracting new businesses to the region."
“BIPOC-owned businesses face barriers that negatively impact their businesses and restrain our local economy,” said Dr. Perry Wood, Executive Director, ECGRA. “These collaborations make investments in diversity and the economy, which will benefit all Erie County residents.”
“When barriers exist, the road to small business success can be a long, overly disproportionally arduous path — a tough reality BIPOC-owned businesses face,” said Karen Bilowith, President & CEO, Erie Community Foundation. “By partnering with other Erie County organizations, this fund recognizes diversity and equity are worthy goals that will benefit the entire County.”
The Diverse Erie Small Business fund will be housed and administered by the Enterprise Development Fund (EDF) — the only Erie County based certified Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI). CDFI’s are private financial institutions, backed by the U.S. Department of the Treasury, that are dedicated to responsible, affordable lending to help low-income, low-wealth and other disadvantaged, underserved people and communities. The EDF, which already houses a small diverse loan program from the PA Minority Business Development Authority (PMBDA), has significant experience in small business lending to BIPOC-owned companies.
“One of the key priorities of the playbook is to boost entrepreneurship, with a focus on BIPOC-owned small businesses, and this Diverse Erie fund fits the exact mold of our goals,” said Kim Thomas, Director, Erie’s Inclusive Playbook. “Through collaboration of different organizations, Erie is endeavoring on a journey that will transform our community.”
“By working together, we are advancing our mission to create a diverse and inclusive county that breaks down barriers and advances equity for our BIPOC-residents,” said Gary Lee, Chief Administrative Officer, Diverse Erie. “Diverse Erie is proud to partner with established public and private organizations to bring our vision of creating an environment where all people of color are welcomed and included to life.”
Loans will range from $25,000 up to $250,000, and a committee made up of representatives from the funders will oversee the applications.
To apply and learn more, visit https://diverseerie.org/business-development/
About Diverse Erie
Diverse Erie, Erie County’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Commission was unanimously created in September 2021 following Erie County’s bold step toward ending the public health crisis that exists among people of color. Diverse Erie will leverage public resources to attract private resources to be invested toward generational impact, focusing on three strategic areas where BIPOC face large disparities: training and education, homeownership, and business development. By investing in initiatives and ideas that advance equity in Erie County, Diverse Erie will work to create an environment where all people of color are welcome and included. To join the #DiverseErie conversation and learn more, visit www.DiverseErie.org.