Holt insists on more investment in minority businesses

The Kindred Spirits Bar and Community Gathering Space is one of the businesses operating in the EastPoint complex at 1700 NE 23rd Street. (Photo courtesy of Kindred Spirits)

Oklahoma City – Oklahoma City is making deliberate investments to ensure that small minority-owned businesses have the resources they need to grow and thrive, but there is still a lot of work to be done.

Continued racial and geographical disparities and intergenerational poverty continue to limit people of color access to business credit, investment capital and mentoring, Mayor David Holt wrote in a recent post in The Hill, co-authored by Levar Stony, Mayor of Richmond, Virginia.

The two mayors outlined the investments their cities have made in tackling differences. “This will not only enable these entrepreneurs, but also strengthen our entire economy for years to come,” they said wrote.

“Oklahoma City is moving in the right direction with the investment commitment, but there are still gaps,” said black business owner Quintin Hughes, noting that only 2 percent of small business owners are black. Meanwhile, the US census reports that 14% of the city’s residents are black.

“There really is room for growth,” Hughes said. “I am optimistic about the investment we have made and the opportunity to achieve parity. The concern is that we continue to be invested in this and even more. “

Hughes co-owns Kindred Spirits, an EastPoint bar and gathering place. EastPoint is located in block 1700 of NE 23rd Street, which was once a busy shopping corridor.

It took Hughes and his business partners more than a year to get the $ 100,000 in funding needed for their project, as the location was on the east side, where creditors have avoided investing for decades, he said.

Years of divestment and the resulting economic situation in the area have made it almost impossible to convince creditors that the project there could be viable, Hughes said.

In fact, EastPoint developer Jonathan Dodson said 26 banks refused to fund development before Citizens Bank of Edmond agreed.

Dodson’s Pivot Project Development purchased two buildings with a total area of ​​38,000 square feet. The first was the new home for Centennial Health, a public clinic. The first tenant in the second building was Intentional Fitness, followed by Kindred Spirits. The complex is also home to The Market in Eastpoint.

Pivot provided a stake in the project to EastPoint’s tenants. Those who sign a 10-year lease have 15% ownership on their premises.

This is the kind of community development for which members of the Northeast OKC Renaissance Inc. overlap, Hughes said. The group’s goal is to develop internally to improve the quality of life of northeastern Oklahoma City residents through economic prosperity and preservation of cultural traditions.

The success of EastPoint will make it easier for future projects in the area to secure funding, but there are concerns about what those projects might be, Hughes said.

“The fear in our community is displacement, the fear of cultural erasure,” he said, “essentially what Deep Deuce is today.”

The once-predominantly African-American neighborhood in the city center has been revived to such an extent that businesses owned and run by blacks have become more expensive.

“A great opportunity here is to learn from communities across the country that have suffered from gentrification,” Hughes said. “We want people here to take advantage of economic opportunities. We are looking for an alliance, not exploitation. “

One example of Oklahoma City’s investment in small businesses owned by minorities was the creation of a Small Business Continuity Program that uses federal dollars to help businesses overcome the challenges posed by COVID-19.

The OKC Rescue Program offers small business owners and nonprofits with 100 or fewer full-time employees a second round of financial support to cover business services such as marketing, accounting or business planning, exterior facade improvements, or COVID-19 mitigation costs, such as ventilation and outdoor seating.

Hughes, who works asstrategic advisor for community development at Echo Investment Capital said the company had “shown a willingness to put its money where its mouth is”.

“My role allows me to build impactful investment funds focused on real estate and small business development in northeastern Oklahoma City,” he said.

Part of the solution is to train entrepreneurs in alternative access to capital and venture capital opportunities, Hughes said. The future of the city The Henrietta B. Foster Center for Small Business Development and Entrepreneurship in the Northeast will be an important part of the educational process, he said.

MAPS 4 includes $ 15 million for the center, which will focus on minority small businesses and disadvantaged businesses.

“This city will be in a better place in five years, 10 years, 20 years,” Hughes said.

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