South Florida’s minority-owned small businesses suffered an economic loss during the COVID-19 pandemic so impactful, many may never recover. From the SBA first round loan debacle to the bureaucracy of the PPP that followed, financial funding remained elusive. A breakthrough arrived in the June 16 announcement that Miami-Dade County has been chosen as one of 10 U.S. communities across the nation to receive funding through the new Rockefeller Foundation Opportunity Collective (ROC), which is allocating $10 million to promote inclusive economic opportunity in post-pandemic recovery and into the future.
The ROC aims to catalyze public and private sector investment in places to promote more inclusive growth, both in the post-pandemic recovery and over the long term. The collective will support government, business, faith-based and nonprofit partners in these 10 locations in addition to Miami-Dade: Atlanta; Boston; Chicago; Houston and El Paso, Texas; Louisville, Kentucky; Newark, New Jersey; Norfolk, Virginia; and Oakland, California.
The Foundation’s collective will additionally focus on matching small business owners with affordable loans and credit-building tools. A secondary aspiration is to achieve two goals: protect communities from displacement and eliminate barriers and assist in accessing capital and credit for low-wage workers and small businesses operated by women, black and Latinx owners.
“We are honored to work with the Rockefeller Foundation Opportunity Collective in creating long-lasting solutions that ensure working families have the access and support they need to thrive,” said Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez. “Minority-owned businesses are the backbone of our economy, and our County’s long-term growth and resilience depend on their success.”
Rockefeller Foundation President Dr. Rajiv J. Shah said, “Black and [Hispanic] small-business owners receive only pennies out of every dollar the federal government lends to small businesses, and when life expectancy is more than 15 years lower in minority neighborhoods than wealthier neighborhoods in the same city, the American Dream is just that: a dream for far too many.”
According to a study by Florida International University, about 37 percent of Miami-Dade business owners are black, Hispanic or women, which is more than double the U.S. average of 18 percent.
Mayors representing the aforementioned cities affirmatively responded to the Foundation’s decision to assist and addressed racism as an underlying circumstance.
“We need to move to a new paradigm of community development; we need a new era of community wealth building, “ said Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer who added that minority residents and businesses in too many American cities have been deliberately left behind and ravaged by years of persistent and systemic racism.
“It is time to do better and step up to invest. We all need to do more – as government, as business, as individuals, and through philanthropy. I thank The Rockefeller Foundation for this investment and recognizing not only the work we have done but the important work ahead.”
Negative or nonexistent credit information, cash constraints, and lack of availability of private capital and access to affordable financing are all components that limit a community’s economic development. These conditions also cause lost job opportunities, restrict housing options, and ultimately limit the goals of many low and middle-income families.
An estimated 26.5 million U.S. adults are not in the formal credit economy. Federal data show that 15% of Black and Hispanic Americans are credit invisible (compared to just 8% of White and Asian Americans). In the U.S., Black and Hispanic businesses receive only 2.5% and 5.8% of funding through the Small Business Administration.
“The Rockefeller Foundation Opportunity Collective is an essential place-based approach to create economic equity for low-wage workers through structural and systemic change in 10 places across the United States,” said Otis Rolley III, senior vice president of the U.S. Equity and Economic Opportunity Initiative at The Rockefeller Foundation. “The disproportionate economic toll on communities of color has historically stymied access to opportunity and been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s going to take a collective effort by local government and nonprofits and businesses to meet the moment and undo the racist economic inequities that have plagued these communities for decades.”
To expand access to capital and credit, The Rockefeller Foundation Opportunity Collective will focus on efforts including loans and equity for people of color and women-led businesses, credit-building tools for small businesses, affordable borrowing for entrepreneurs, and capacity building, among others.
“Our team is committed to making places across the United States more equitable, and that starts by directly addressing the needs of millions of low-wage workers and providing a pathway to economic stability,” said Gregory Johnson, director of Place-Based Innovation for the U.S. Equity and Economic Opportunity Initiative at The Rockefeller Foundation. “This initiative will strengthen our efforts through innovation and collaboration and help dismantle the structures that prevent closing the economic opportunity gap that has limited the potential of so many communities.”
The $10 million commitment behind The Rockefeller Foundation Opportunity Collective is part of the Foundation’s comprehensive $65 million investment announced in February to help more than 10 million low-wage workers and their families across the United States meet their basic needs and pursue a more prosperous future.
“I applaud The Rockefeller Foundation for this important and innovative pledge to our nation’s cities and urban centers during this most critical time,” said Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. “By drawing on the comprehensive resources of our communities, this visionary program will not only provide critical support to our neighborhoods devastated by the COVID-19 crisis, it will also help address the deeper, generational fissures of inequality across our cities.”
Lightfoot added that, “In addition to its own success, my hope is that the ROC will serve as a model for how we can come together to heal the pain that exists in our cities and bring historic systems of racism and injustice to an end once and for all.”
Mayors from other cities offer thanks for the Foundation promoting inclusive growth for their citizens:
“This challenging moment in our history demands that we address persistent barriers that deny opportunity and chances for success. The City of Norfolk is extremely grateful for its continued partnership with The Rockefeller Foundation. As a part of the Opportunity Collective, we look forward to confronting chronic disparities in small business lending, taking down barriers to credit for Norfolk’s entrepreneurs and low wage workers, and aiding communities economically impacted by COVID-19.” — Norfolk Mayor Kenneth Cooper Alexander
“With the continued support of the Rockefeller Foundation, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottom’s One Atlanta efforts will be a driving force promoting economic mobility and inclusive economic development for all Atlantans. We, Invest Atlanta, are excited to be a partner in the equity vision and an implementer for an affordable, resilient, and equitable city.” — Eloisa Klementich, President and CEO of Invest Atlanta, the City of Atlanta’s Economic Development Agency
“Small and local businesses are a crucial part of our community’s success, and we are very grateful to be selected to participate in the Rockefeller Foundation Opportunity Collective. This program will help strengthen our region to allow our local businesses rebuild and recover from the impacts of COVID-19 pandemic.” — El Paso Mayor Dee Margo
“Small businesses help define Oakland’s character, and through the generous support of the Rockefeller Foundation Opportunity Collective, we will further advance our goal of inclusive equitable economic development to ensure all Oaklanders benefit from growth as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. Breaking barriers to capital and credit for our most vulnerable business owners of color is an essential step in preserving our diverse merchant base.” — Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf
“Houston’s entrepreneurial spirit thrives in our innovators and minority and women-owned small businesses. Historically, many of these groups have not received the support, resources, or financial investment they need to flourish. I am pleased that Houston was selected to be part of The Rockefeller Foundation Opportunity Collective. This will allow us to provide more tools to these deserving Houstonians. We will support their dreams and invest in our collective future.” — Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner
“As we begin a phased reopening of our economy in Boston, it is important to put a concerted focus on lifting up our small businesses who are the lifeblood of our communities, and who we depend on as the backbone of our economy. We are honored to partner with the Rockefeller Foundation on this new initiative that puts equity at the heart of our collective recovery, and that bolsters the important work we do every day in supporting the small businesses that make our neighborhoods and city so special.” — Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh