The city of Memphis, Tennessee, is joining forces with FedEx and several other public/private partners to offer 75 black entrepreneurs in the region help in growing their businesses. The partners in the initiative include FedEx, Regions Bank, and the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City,an organization that promotes urban prosperity throughout the United States.
The initiative is part of a larger effort on the part of the city’s leadership and several public/private partnerships to expand economic opportunities for Memphis’ minority entrepreneurs. According to the 2014 census, nearly 63 percent of the Memphis’ 670,000 inhabitants are African American, yet only 1 percent of local revenue went to minority-owned businesses in 2015. And while large-scale developers in the city’s Downtown, Midtown and East Memphis neighborhoods have reaped the benefit of extensive tax breaks, the city’s disadvantaged African American communities have not.
At a meeting with city leaders last month, Richard Smith, the CEO of FedEx Logistics and the chairman of the Greater Memphis Chamber, said “We must be intentional as we expand (opportunities) to more minorities and disenfranchised groups.”
Memphis has long been struggling with a stagnant economy. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, it is the poorest city in the United States, with a median household income of $32,285 ($37,767 for a family). Nearly 21 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, including 30 percent of people under the age of 18.
Investment in disadvantaged communities is a way to create jobs where they are most needed and build a stronger, more includsive economy, Smith said. Pointing to recent improvements in the city’s overall economic trajectory, he warned, ““Our new-found momentum can be easily derailed,” if the city fails to take action to help African American entrepreneurs.
In addition to the recently announced capacity building effort, FedEx is also partnering with the 800 Initiative, a program that aims to grow minority business revenues in Memphis by $50 million over the next five years. The program is supported by a $1 million investment from FedEx and $500,000 from the city.
Memphis is home to FedEx headquarters and FedEx Logistics.
The major thrust of the current initiative is to help Memphis’ African American entrepreneurs build capacity through the Inner City Capital Connection (ICCC) program sponsored by the ICIC. The tuition-free program includes an opening seminar, one-on-one coaching, webinars and a national conference. Attendees must also complete four learning modules within three to six months.
To be eligible to attend the program, an MWBE must:
- Be in operation for two or more years
- Be headquartered in or have more that 51 percent of its physical operations in an economically distressed area – or-
- Have a workforce comprised of 40 percent or more employees who live in an economically distressed area
- Have five or more employees
- Be past the start-up stage. Businesses with at least $500,000 in annual revenue are preferred, but this requirement is negotiable.
MWBEs may apply for the program or be nominated by another minority or woman owned business or a small business developer, such as the City of Memphis Office of Business Diversity and Compliance. Each business may also nominate up to six other businesses.
The deadline for nominations is July 26, 2019. The opening seminar for the ICCC program will be held on August 22nd at the FedEx Institute of Technology on the University of Memphis Campus. (Time to be announced.)
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