Milwaukee non-profits that support diverse businesses get a boost from the state and feds
The Evers administration has handed out nearly $16 million in federal rescue plan (ARPA) funds to help diverse businesses in Wisconsin.
Of that, Milwaukee-area non-profit organizations that provide help to smaller firms disproportionately hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic are receiving $6 million. The largest local grant — about $3 million — is going to The Sherman Phoenix Foundation, which focuses on helping entrepreneurs of color.
Executive Director Stacia Thompson said her organization will offer technical assistance and mentoring, even if the business plan was first written, as the saying goes, on a napkin.
"You know, many small businesses may have started out with just a napkin idea, but they've never run a business or don't have a background in marketing or accounting or know what the laws and regulations are. So, we'll create programming where we'll have professionals in those areas doing office hours with our internal tenants and business owners here at Sherman Phoenix, as well as putting programming in the local area," Thompson told WUWM, following a Tuesday news conference announcing the grants.
The Sherman Phoenix Marketplace, located at 35th and Fond du Lac in Milwaukee, now has more than 25 small, Black-owned businesses. It's on the site of buildings redeveloped since violent unrest in 2016 following the nearby fatal police shooting of a man. COVID-19 later forced the buildings to close for about a year.
Another state grant recipient is the Manufacturing Diversity Institute, which says it will use $300,000 in federal funds to broaden participation in the ownership of manufacturing firms and the industry's workforce.
The institute's Keenan Grenell said there's a big opportunity in making things that are used in the development of affordable housing. "What does that mean? Cement manufacturing, household appliance manufacturing, paint and coating manufacturing, upholstered household furniture manufacturing, wood kitchen countertop and cabinet manufacturing," Grenell explained.
Earlier this year, the Evers administration handed out a much larger sum — $57 million — in diverse business grants. This round of money comes two months before the November election, and as Gov. Tony Evers' Republican challenger, Tim Michels, is also promising to pay attention to Milwaukee's economy.