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Over 35 African Small Businesses Discuss the Great Streets Initiative

Monday, January 28, 2013

Over 35 African Small Businesses Discuss the Great Streets Initiative

On Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013, the DC Mayor’s Office on African Affairs (OAA) partnered with the Deputy Mayor’s Office on Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) to host an Information Session for African-owned businesses to learn about the Great Streets Small Business Capital Improvement Grant. This session was held at the Howard University School of Business in Northwest Washington DC. With over thirty five small businesses in attendance, the session provided a wonderful space for DC small businesses to learn about the initiative and ask questions on eligibility requirements, guidelines, and the overall application process.

The Great Streets Initiative [www.greatstreets.dc.gov] is a multi-agency and multi-year effort to transform under-invested corridors in the District into thriving and inviting neighborhood centers. Great Streets Initiative Grants are therefore intended to support existing small businesses, attract new small businesses, increase the District's tax base and create new jobs for District residents. In this cycle, DMPED will be awarding individual grants up to a maximum of $85,000 each to support and foster growth among small businesses by reimbursing the grantee for capital expenditures for property improvement.

For the thirty five interested businesses who participated, the session provided them with an opportunity to hear directly from the DMPED team about the critical components of the grant application process, and connect, in person, with community based organizations contracted to provide technical and grant writing assistance to applying small businesses. Among those represented were the Development Corporation of Columbia Heights, the DC Chamber of Commerce Georgia Avenue Business Resource Center, and the Emory Beacon of Light, Inc.

Business owners asked several key questions, and wanted to understand the total grant amount available for specific corridors within this cycle, the reimbursement process and availability of loans for supplementing cash flow during project implementation, and the myriad rating factors considered in the selection process. Participants also heard a first-hand account from H Street business owner and Great Streets Grant recipient, Bachir Diop, who shared his experience with the grant and told new applicants to “keep it simple and specific.”

Although Great Streets has identified a total of nine under-invested corridors in the District, OAA’s outreach in this partnership was largely focused on 2 corridors - Georgia Ave, and 7th Street/North Capitol – both known to be home to large and growing concentrations of African-owned businesses. During the intensive door to door outreach OAA conducted through a multi-lingual team of staff and volunteers to provoke a sense of excitement about the Great Streets Initiative, OAA took the opportunity to collect unique data and survey over 100 businesses along Georgia Ave & 7th Street alone as part of its ‘WE COUNT’ Demographic Data Collection Initiative.

OAA’s Business Engagement & Support Program works to strengthen the District’s African business community by connecting entrepreneurs and businesses to each other and to the resources and opportunities they need to thrive and contribute to the city’s economic development and job creation efforts. OAA is excited and committed to partnering with DMPED to ensure that all small businesses in the District participate in and take advantage of the unique and transformative opportunity presented by the Great Streets Initiative.

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