City of Wilmington ARPA Funds Assist Local Businesses in Obtaining Loans for Start-up Expansion
August 9, 2022
Mayor Mike Purzycki said today that the City of Wilmington is pleased to have assisted Cornerstone West CDC and its partners with ARPA funding so they can increase their efforts to eliminate racial disparities in borrowing, which severely affect the ability of Black-owned City businesses to obtain loans for business start-up or expansion. The following news release explains more about three loan programs that are available to local businesses.
City of Wilmington America Rescue Plan Act funds (ARPA) are helping Cornerstone West CDC and its partners increase their efforts to eliminate racial disparities in borrowing which severely affect the ability of Black-owned City businesses to receive loans for business start-ups or expansion. The impact of COVID-19 on Wilmington’s local economy has not only affected smaller businesses but many City neighborhoods in unprecedented ways.
So today, Cornerstone West and its partners announced the expansion of three popular funding opportunities that began in 2020 as a way to meet the changing needs of the small business community as it struggled to survive during a pandemic. They are the Wilmington Strong Fund, the West Side Small Business Innovation Grant Program, and the West Side Corridor Revitalization Fund.
As leaders in economic development, Cornerstone West CDC [westsidegrows.org] and its partners—Wilmington Alliance and True Access Capital—recognized that state and federal government assistance for small businesses were loans that required repayment. They determined that if action was not taken, Wilmington’s small business community would not survive. Today, the organizations thanked Mayor Mike Purzycki for providing ARPA funding to expand their joint small business program entitled, Building From Within: Small Business Commercial Corridor Stabilization & Innovation.
The Building From Within program offers these three funding opportunities to local businesses:
•Wilmington Strong Fund [wilmingtonstrongfund.com]: Provides $1,000 emergency grants to small businesses located in the small businesses citywide struggling with the negative economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Eligible businesses can use funds for rent/mortgage payments, utility bills, supplies bills, or inventory bills.
• West Side Small Business Innovation Grant: Works with entrepreneurs seeking to open their business in a commercial vacancy, property owners seeking potential tenants, and existing businesses to make minor repairs at their location on the West Side of Wilmington, DE. Grant awards are between $1,000 – $10,000 for expenses related to leasehold improvements, interior & exterior repairs, facade improvements, new equipment or upgrades, costs related to permitting & health department approvals, and exterior security cameras.
• West Side Corridor Revitalization Fund: Offers up to $20,000 in forgivable loans to small businesses to act as a catalyst for economic revitalization on the West Side of Wilmington, DE. Funding is intended for property and business owners seeking to invest in the West Side community.
This innovative and catalytic program will support small businesses and entrepreneurs following best practices in community economic development. Utilizing the nationally recognized “Build From Within” model as established by the Neighborhood Development Center [ndc-mn.org] (NDC) based in Saint Paul, MN. NDC has developed a four-component model that has become the pillar for activating entrepreneurs and revitalizing low-income neighborhoods via training, lending, technical assistance, and incubator spaces. Talented entrepreneurs in our neighborhoods are ready to invest in their own communities, create jobs, rehabilitate vacant spaces, and revitalize their neighborhoods from within.
Cornerstone West CDC is grateful to the generous commitment from the Office of the Mayor and is proud to align our work with the Wilmington 2028 Comprehensive Plan. There is a strong need for continued investment in our neighborhoods. While Wilmington has experienced considerable economic growth in the last decade, little growth has been occurring in its low-income neighborhoods which continue to struggle with disinvestment, low educational outcomes, poverty, and low economic mobility. These issues have only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The citywide plan recommends that economic development programs should be replicated and scaled for the neighborhood context and ensure inclusive businesses can grow. This plan explicitly states the “need to foster vibrant neighborhood Main Streets” and “balance investments between neighborhoods, downtown, and the riverfront”.
The West Side includes all the neighborhoods between Pennsylvania Avenue to the north, N. Jackson St. to the east, Lancaster Ave. to the south, and the CSX railroad tracks to the west. The West Side is made up of four census tracts: 14, 15, 22, and 23, as well as a portion of census tract 24.
As a community development organization, Cornerstone West CDC has identified the following challenges in our community:
•Low to Moderate Income Community of Color: The West Side is primarily a Low-Moderate Income area, as defined by median family income, according to data listed on the FFIEC website [geomap.ffiec.gov]. 4 of the 5 census tracts that make up the West Side are considered low- and moderate-income census tracts. Census tracts 22 and 23 are listed as Low Income with a median family income of 38% AMI and 48% AMI. Census Tracts 14 and 24 are listed as Moderate on the FFEIC website, with a median family income of 80% AMI and 64% AMI. Census Tract 15 is considered Middle Income, with median family income listed as 98% AMI.
•Lack of Access to Designated Resources: The West Side is ineligible for any designations such as the Downtown Development District, Opportunity Zones, or the Business Improvement District.
•Concentration of Vacant Properties: The West Side had the highest rates of foreclosure in the city in 2010. Census tracts 22 and 23, which included 6% of all the parcels in the City, had 16% of its foreclosures, and 21% of its vacant properties. Additionally, in census tract 23, the minority population has increased, while the income has decreased.
It is our goal to address these challenges via the Build from Within program and support a vibrant and thriving West Side community and support Wilmington as a whole.
Cornerstone West CDC: Cornerstone West CDC serves as the implementing organization for the West Side Grows Together Revitalization Plan. They were established by a partnership between St. Francis Hospital and West End Neighborhood House in 1999, focusing primarily on housing development for low- to moderate-income families. Now, they provide a variety of community programming and resources.
Wilmington Alliance: Wilmington Alliance was formed in July of 2019 out of the merger of Wilmington Renaissance Corporation (WRC) and Wilmington Leaders Alliance (WLA), to advance the city of Wilmington through intentional strategic collaborations with a culture that is inclusive and innovative. The Alliance focuses on targeted projects for greater impact and brings coordinating support to see these efforts through to completion. Our three areas of focus are: creative placemaking, community-based violence intervention, and economic development & inclusion which includes workforce development, entrepreneurship, and support of local small businesses.
True Access Capital: True Access Capital is a not-for-profit, federally certified, Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) that supports small businesses and community development projects. The mission of True Access Capital is to educate, empower, and elevate business owners, and entrepreneurs, by augmenting technical expertise, increasing access to capital, and stimulating business growth throughout Delaware and southeastern Pennsylvania.
Neighborhood Development Center: NDC supports entrepreneurs, from startup to expansion, and believes in the power, drive, and daring of local entrepreneurs to transform their lives and revitalize their neighborhoods.
Launcher: Launcher is a 12-week Business Plan writing course that provides instruction on how to start your business as well as one-on-one entrepreneurship guidance.
West End Neighborhood House: At West End Neighborhood House, staff, clients, volunteers, and donors work together to resolve complex social challenges throughout Delaware. Through our outcomes-driven programming, we provide the support that meets each of our customer’s unique needs, whether that be in finances, housing, education, employment, or family services.