small businesses

This is an excerpt taken from The New York Times written by By . To read the full article, please click here.

The center of that infrastructure is the New Economy Initiative, an organization founded by 10 philanthropic groups at the start of the last recession. Those leaders wanted to invest in entrepreneurship as a way of diversifying the economy to inoculate against future economic shocks. They tasked NEI with funding the groundwork of small-business development — like teaching people to write business plans — and having a pilot’s view of the entire network and its needs. Since 2007, it has invested nearly $100 million.

When the pandemic hit, NEI’s director, Pamela Lewis, intuited that it would disproportionately hurt Detroit because many of its businesses are Black owned, with fewer than 10 employees — exactly the type of firms that have limited access to banking and lending in good economies. And without those relationships, she knew access to federal relief funds would be a struggle for them.

Ms. Lewis began coordinating with local leaders right away and put $5 million in the response pot — including $2.6 million she raised in just two weeks. They used that money and additional federal relief to flood the economy with grants, loans and rent support.

The group formed a website, Detroit Means Business, to house all of the city’s pandemic response information. Included are industry-specific playbooks for how to reopen, downloadable signs, and details on getting curbside pickup street signs installed in front of a restaurant or expediting a patio permit to allow outdoor dining.

The group also got DTE Energy, the local utility company, to pay for free boxes of personal protective equipment to businesses with fewer than 50 employees — and passed out 3,000. DTE also paid for the city to hire a human resources firm to advise local owners.

The city and its partners raised $400,000 for its Feed the Frontlinesprogram, which paid restaurants to make thousands of meals for essential workers. And they created the Digital Detroit course to teach businesses how to build websites so they could shift to e-commerce; more than 200 people signed up for the first cohort. The mayor ensured that all business owners and their employees could get free rapid Covid-19 testing.

This is an excerpt taken from The New York Times written by By . To read the full article, please click here.

Pictured: Credit…Elaine Cromie for The New York Times.