Wells Fargo has selected Greater Newark Enterprise Corporation (GNEC) ($250,000) and Union County Economic Development Corporation (UCEDC) ($500,000) among the first to receive funds from the company’s new Open for Business Fund (OFB), bringing nearly $800,000 to North Jersey to help underserved small businesses stay open and save jobs. The funding will aid the two organizations’ short- and long-term COVID-19 recovery efforts, micro lending activities as well as the creation of specialized programming for diverse owners.
“Thank you to Wells Fargo for being on the forefront of providing resources to small businesses historically under-represented, and especially during this pandemic,” said Adam Farrah, president of UCEDC. “COVID-19 has presented significant challenges for the majority of small businesses in this country. Once again, Well Fargo has risen to the occasion with its Open For Business initiative. This financial support will enable UCEDC to provide the training and funding necessary to assist underserved entrepreneurs to adjust to market conditions and remain in operation.”
In addition to existing small business support, the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) will develop and expand programs aimed to address systemic issues and unique challenges faced by diverse entrepreneurs. For example, UCEDC will use part of its $500,000 OFB award to launch the “Entrepreneurship as Second Chance” (ESC) program focused on formerly incarcerated and court involved citizens. UCEDC will also expand its “Virtual Incubator Program” (VIP) which provides specialized training for diverse business owners. GNEC will deploy its $250,000 OFB award to strengthen lending activities as well as increase capital for female- and minority-led businesses in Essex, Hudson and Morris counties.
“GNEC is honored and grateful to have been selected as a recipient of a $250,000 grant from Wells Fargo through the company’s Open for Business Fund,” said Victor Salama, executive director of GNEC. “Demand for our lending and technical assistance services to New Jersey small businesses has never been greater, and this generous commitment by Wells Fargo in support of GNEC’s mission will allow us to serve more entrepreneurs of color in northern New Jersey struggling to keep their businesses open during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Wells Fargo launched the Open for Business Fund this summer as an approximately $400 million small business recovery effort across the U.S. to help entrepreneurs recover and rebuild. The initiative focuses on increasing access to capital, technical expertise and long-term resiliency programs. The Open for Business Fund’s initial grants will allocate $28 million to CDFIs, also known as nonprofit community lenders, aimed at empowering Black and African American-owned small businesses, which are closing at nearly twice the rate of the industry, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research.
“Wells Fargo’s Open for Business Fund is another avenue of support and enlists the expertise of our CDFI partners at UCEDC and GNEC to urgently help diverse North Jersey entrepreneurs recover and preserve the jobs they provide in their communities,” said Tomas Porturas, vice president of Social Impact and Sustainability. “The funding will funnel much needed access to capital, equity in resources and technical assistance for local businesses who are the backbone of our local economies and neighborhoods.”
“I applaud Wells Fargo for recognizing the value of New Jersey’s diverse small business community to our local economy and especially during these unprecedented times,” said Carlos Medina, CEO and president of the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce New Jersey. “These small business owners often face unique barriers including access to capital and technical assistance. Investing in these communities is a smart bet and I am confident that the recovery of Hispanic small businesses will once again help lead our economy out of this economic downturn due to the pandemic.”
Interested small business owners can visit the GNEC and UCEDC websites to learn more about available services and apply for financial assistance. In addition to these new grants, Wells Fargo has locally donated close to $4 million dollars in Wells Fargo Works for Small Business Diverse Community Capital (DCC) program funding this year in support of small business recovery and relief in the midst of the pandemic.
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