A new $54 million fund called the Wayne County Small Business Hub has launched, and it will provide support to new and existing businesses with a focus on technical assistance.
The fund is a collaboration between the Wayne County Executive’s Office and New Economy Initiative. The announcement was made Wednesday at the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Mackinac Policy Conference.
The program will have a focus on businesses in Wayne County that have 50 employees or fewer. It will specifically focus on minority- or women-owned businesses, and micro businesses with 10 or fewer employees.
“The New Economy of Southeast Michigan must be inclusive, it must support small businesses, which are often overlooked in some of these larger programs,” said Wafa Dinaro, executive director of the New Economy Initiative, in the news conference. “Today’s announcement is really a step in that direction. This program is designed to replicate the work that NEI has done in the city of Detroit.”
Wayne County has 43 communities. Dinaro said the program will have a strong focus on Inkster, River Rouge, Ecorse and Romulus.
“All of those communities are historically underserved,” Dinaro said. “All of them didn’t fare very well during the pandemic, so we want to make sure we are providing the people the potential business owners in those communities, the resources that they need to be able to start a business, grow their business and thrive.”
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Warren Evans, Wayne County executive, said many small business owners didn’t have much time to fill out grant applications because they were busy operating their businesses.
“There are a lot of communities in Wayne County that are distressed communities,” said Evans in the news conference. He said many of the mom-and-pop businesses are working a full day, from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. And even with some funding, “What we found was that a lot of those small businesses just don’t have the resources to compete.”
Wayne County will utilize $32 million from the American Rescue Plan Act and the NEI will provide $22 million in grant funding from the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, Ford Foundation, Hudson-Webber Foundation, JPMorgan Chase, The Kresge Foundation, Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and William Davidson Foundation, a news release said.
The money will be distributed over three years to nonprofit organizations that support businesses, including chambers of commerce, who will then deliver the grants to small businesses. The amount of the grants will determined on case-by-case need.
“These organizations, the chambers, the business support organizations will then connect small businesses with technical assistance, including accounting, legal, marketing services and, of course, business plan development,” Dinaro said. “The program aims to make pathways to wealth generation through entrepreneurship, and really make it more accessible to small business owners in the county.”
Dinaro also stated that depending on the approval timeline by the Wayne County Commission, she expects that the funding will be available in late August or early September.
“I believe that what we’re really teeing up here is the relationship between philanthropic organizations and the government, that together has enough expertise and enough money to make these things work and enough commitment to do it,” Evans said.
Dinaro said this fund has the potential to be a regional and national model on how to utilize American Rescue Plan Act funding.