23 collaborative, asset-based community revitalization projects win $2 million in Urban Agenda Grants in Massachusetts

On February 19, 2020, $2 million in Urban Agenda Grant Program funding was awarded to 23 community revitalization projects in Massachusetts; the largest award round since Fiscal Year 2016. The program is focused on promoting economic vitality in urban neighborhoods by fostering partnerships for growth that capitalize on unique local assets and community-driven responses to challenges.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, Lt. Governor Karyn Polito and Housing and Economic Development Director Mike Kennealy joined Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, The American City Coalition Executive Director Christine Araujo, Principal of Afrikai, LLC and owner and Chief Curator of Black Market Nubian Kai Grant, Representative Jon Santiago, and local community and business leaders to announce the awards at Black Market.

The awards announced today will fund projects supporting workforce development, small businesses, and entrepreneurship initiatives across 21 communities: Attleboro, Barnstable, Boston, Brockton, Chelsea, Everett, Fall River, Fitchburg, Greenfield, Haverhill, Holyoke, Lawrence, Lowell, Lynn, New Bedford, North Adams, Pittsfield, Revere, Salem, Springfield, and Worcester.

Our administration is committed to partnering with local leaders and community organizations that are on the ground in urban neighborhoods to encourage collaborative, high-impact projects that directly impact the quality of life and access to opportunity of residents,” said Governor Charlie Baker.

The flexibility of the Urban Agenda program enables investments in a wide-range of initiatives that train unemployed individuals for jobs, assist local entrepreneurs and prepare small businesses for success,” he added.

Launched by the Baker-Polito Administration in 2015, Urban Agenda program grants are competitive one-year grants that offer flexible funding for local partnerships to implement programming and projects that are based on creative collaborative work models with the goal of urban communities achieving economic progress.

Our community is full of dreamers and innovators that tend to get overlooked and overshadowed because of the zip code in which they reside,” said Kai Grant. “This money is an investment into their future and the development of an entire ecosystem in Roxbury. We are grateful to assist in the socio-economic uplifting of the neighborhood.

These projects leverage existing economic assets to respond to and deliver on defined economic development and quality of life goals. Awards prioritize collaboration, shared accountability and building leadership capacity at the local level.

Urban Agenda grants are one of the tools that allow our administration to tackle local challenges around workforce training and provide support to urban small businesses and entrepreneurs that have the potential to create strong and vibrant downtowns,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito.

Our administration has always emphasized collaboration and homegrown solutions, and today’s awards embrace innovative projects that will expand access to economic prosperity,” she continued.

In this round of the Urban Agenda program, the administration prioritized funding to applications that proposed the implementation of projects or initiatives that directly address any of the recommendations issued by the Black Advisory Commission and the Latino Advisory Commission, established by Governor Baker in 2017.

Applicants were encouraged to enhance partnerships from within the Black and Latino communities and to prioritize changes that would enhance community partnerships, strengthen small business, increase workforce participation and expand opportunity in ways that drive diversity and inclusiveness.

Our new economic development plan, Partnerships for Growth, aims to ensure that everyone has a chance to be on the playing field when it comes to economic success, and the Urban Agenda program is one way our administration can connect more residents to the prosperity that has been generated in Massachusetts,” said Mike Kennealy.

Over the next four years, our administration will continue our outreach to small businesses across the Commonwealth, including those in urban downtowns, to ensure we align programming with their needs for space, capital, employees and technical assistance,” he added.

With a $100,000 Urban Agenda grant, the American City Coalition will partner with Black Market and Haley House on a three-pronged approach to economic growth – business development, wealth creation and physical connections – in Roxbury’s Nubian Square neighborhood. Grant funding will support a micro-business accelerator for underserved entrepreneurs, the re-opening of a local business which hires and trains residents facing barriers to employment, and a strategy to draw visitors and residents into Nubian Square on Saturdays when business activity is low.

Supporting local businesses and organizations is one of the best ways to strengthen our neighborhoods,” said Mayor Walsh. “I want to thank our state partners for investing in the Black Market, Haley House, the American City Coalition and Action for Equity, all great local pillars that do so much to support our residents. Together, these investments will allow these organizations to continue creating more pathways into the middle class, fuel our local economy and expand economic opportunities for our residents.

This fundamentally supports the findings and recommendations in our soon-to-be-released Nubian Square Market Analysis, in which residents and businesses articulated the need for vibrant Saturday activities in the Square,” said Christine Araujo. “This funding will support Saturday activities including music, children’s activities and a farmer’s market.

Since 2015, the Baker-Polito Administration has awarded $6 million in grant funding through the Urban Agenda Grant Program, which is administered by the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development (EOHED), and offers flexible grant funding to support creative local partnerships.

Nubian Square is the economic and cultural heart of Roxbury and I am delighted to see targeted investments being made to foster growth,” said Representative Jon Santiago. “This grant will go a long way in supporting entrepreneurs and local businesses that serve as the economic anchor of Nubian Square.

In 2019, Governor Baker signed the Baker-Polito Administration’s new economic development plan entitled Partnerships for Growth: A plan to enable the Commonwealth’s regions to build, connect and lead. Partnerships for Growth focuses on four core pillars to produce more housing options for residents, support vibrant communities, strengthen Massachusetts’ business competitiveness, and develop stronger pathways for workers.

Haley House’s staff and board took a deep look at how to maintain our social enterprise Bakery Cafe as a community resource,” said Bing Broderick, Executive Director of Haley House. “We found that in order to be sustainable we had to make important decisions that involved hard work and change to ultimately deepen and expand the impact of our work in Roxbury, especially related to employment and training for people facing barriers to success at our social enterprise. The Urban Agenda funding will help us to accomplish this goal and to remain a vital resource in this community.

Over the next four years, the administration will build on investments in high schools and community colleges, create new pathways into well-paying jobs, and enhance access to capital, space and networks for women- and minority-owned businesses. This will not only address some of the core needs of underserved and vulnerable communities and populations, but it will also help to unlock economic growth in all areas of the Commonwealth.

Here are the FY20 Urban Agenda Awards:

  • Attleboro (City of Attleboro) – $50,000 for the City of Attleboro with the Partnership for Entrepreneurial Development, HarborOneU, MSBDC, SCORE, and the United Regional Chamber of Commerce to provide training, grant funds, and resources to five business to locate in Downtown Attleboro storefronts through a business plan competition. The City will coordinate and promote the program as well as waive all permitting and inspection fees, while community partners will train businesses, assist with business plans, and assign a dedicated mentor.
  • Barnstable (Cape Cod Culinary) – $10,000 to continue and expand classes that provide basic culinary skills training to at-risk youth as a way to offer a pathway to further education for those that were interesting in a culinary career and provide basic training to those seeking to immediately enter the workforce.
  • Boston, Mattapan (Action for Equity) – $100,000 to Jobs Action Network (JAN) to partner with the City of Boston and employers to build a Community Jobs Pipeline that will connect underemployed residents with transferable skills to good jobs. The goal is to build relationships between neighborhoods and employers for ongoing hiring.
  • Boston, Roxbury (The American City Coalition) – $100,000 for the City’s Office of Economic Development to partner with The American City Coalition, Black Market, and Haley House on economic growth in Roxbury’s Nubian Square neighborhood through a micro-business accelerator for underserved entrepreneurs, the re-opening of a business that hires and trains residents facing barriers to employment, and a strategy to encourage business activity on Saturdays.
  • Brockton (City of Brockton) – $60,000 for an IT/Life Sciences Pathways Program that will provide participants with an A+ certification, giving them the skills for IT and networking careers in healthcare, financial services, cybersecurity, and computer sciences. Officials from Bridgewater State University and Stonehill College will assist students seeking further skill development and guidance towards a four-year bachelor’s degree.
  • Chelsea (Chelsea Collaborative) – $100,000 for the Good Jobs Coalition program which seeks to advance economic opportunities in Chelsea’s Latinx community by developing, expanding, and coordinating targeted interventions, systems of support, and relations with employers that increase Chelsea residents’ earned income; improve residents ‘economic stability; and meet employers’ demand for talent.
  • Everett (Shared Service Alliance) – $100,000 to support the development of a Shared Services Alliance (SSA) with the Nurtury, CCAB, United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley to strengthen the business model of childcare programs by providing business education, individual coaching on pedagogical practices, and group professional development.
  • Fall River (Bristol Chamber of Commerce) – $60,000 to support the South Main Small Business Initiative that is aimed at developing a robust small business community in Fall River’s South Main Street commercial corridor, combining a district focus with a cohort approach and individualized assistance.
  • Fitchburg (Montachusett Opportunity Council) – $100,000 for the Youth Innovation Hub, a co-work maker space that serves as a place for youth to delve into their passions and explore their interest while their skills and character are nurtured by mentors in ways that lead to higher levels of achievement in higher education and local careers.
  • Greenfield (Greenfield Community College) – $70,000 to support the work of the Greenfield Community College Ideation Center, an entrepreneurial resource space where students and community members can apply their business skills to help economic development in the region. This grant will allow the Ideation Center, in partnership with the City of Greenfield and emerging co-working entrepreneurial spaces Greenspace CoWork, the Hive Makerspace, and Another Castle, to develop critical accounting and marketing services, workshops, and other resources.
  • Haverhill (City of Haverhill) – $95,000 to targeted assistance for an initiative that will help achieve a shared economic prosperity in Haverhill through workforce connections to good paying jobs and minority-owned business growth, sustainability and formation.
  • Holyoke (EforAll Holyoke) – $100,000 for the expansion of the successful EforAll Holyoke business accelerator program to include its first Spanish-language cohort. The new E para Todos will recruit Spanish-speaking entrepreneurs, mentors, and judges for their Accelerator and Pitch Contests.
  • Lawrence (Lawrence CommunityWorks) – $100,000 for the support of the Community Educator Pipeline Program to help diversify the local educator workforce, meet growing education employer demand, and improve the job skills and career paths of low-income, Latinx residents of Lawrence. This grant will add both early education provider certification and Para-to-Teacher training tracks to the already successful Para-educator training pilot program of the cross-sector collaborative Lawrence Working Families Initiative.
  • Lowell (City of Lowell) – $100,000 to support the City of Lowell’s partnership with the South Middlesex Opportunity Council (SMOC) in their effort to implement an innovative approach to advancing workforce participation and economic inclusion for homeless and near-homeless individuals. This initiative will transform the homeless shelter into an engagement center where service providers such as MassHire and the Health Center can offer job training and health interventions.
  • Lynn (EforAll Lynn) – $95,000 to support the partnership of EforAll Lynn and the North Shore Latino Business Association (NSLBA) in their effort to provide access to networks and technical assistance to help small businesses, particularly minority-owned, to stabilize and grow.
  • New Bedford (Community Economic Development Center of SEMA) – $100,000 to support the hiring of a “Love the Ave Coordinator” to stimulate economic development along Acushnet Avenue by working with Latino small businesses, community members, and other stakeholders to fill vacant storefronts with arts and culture displays, make physical improvements on facades, and create family friendly events to attract new customers.
  • North Adams (City of North Adams) – $75,000 for the City of North Adams and Northern Berkshire Community Coalition to partner on a downtown circulation plan which will support downtown businesses, visitors, and residents of the adjacent areas by enhancing the designs of the city’s multi-modal connections among neighborhoods and other attractions that will promote circulation throughout the downtown.
  • Pittsfield (Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity) – $95,000 to support Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity’s Workforce Development Program to prepare workers for building careers by providing direct workforce skills trainings with the supports that include training certifications and connections to apprenticeships. The grant will also support Berkshire Bridges Working Cities in the development of an Employer Resource Network which places success coaches within businesses to support new hires and low income workers that have typically had difficulty in obtaining and retaining employment.
  • Revere (Neighborhood Developers) – $95,000 for Revere Works, co-led by the City of Revere, The Neighborhood Developers (TND-a local community development corporation), MGH Revere CARES and a growing coalition of municipal, non-profit, and employer partners which will build employment services infrastructure, create new communication tools and channels, integrate and market computer classes citywide, and deliver financial capability and employment trainings that will connect low-and moderate income job seekers to emerging jobs and contracting opportunities.
  • Salem (North Shore Community Development Corporation) – $100,000 for the Small Business Engagement project, a collaboration between the City of Salem, North Shore CDC, the MAPC, and the Point Neighborhood Small Business Association that offers small business coaching, access to a pop-up shop space, and access to physical retail space and branding redesign to minority owned businesses in the Point neighborhood of Salem.
  • Springfield, North End (New North Citizens Council) – $100,000 for the New North Citizen’s Council (NNCC) and their Mano a la Obra (Let’s Get Down to Work!) pilot project which provides Latino residents of the North End neighborhood with targeted workforce development. This is achieved through an “Employment First” approach to support rapid entry into the labor market and provide an array of support services to those entering the workforce.
  • Springfield, Otis Hill (Economic Development Council of Western Mass) – $100,000 to fund the implementation of The Father Factor program from the Aspen Institute that will include programming for active parenting, healthy relationships, workforce readiness training, teacher career pathway training, EforAll entrepreneurship program in Spanish and English, financial wellness and coaching, and cliff effect training.
  • Worcester (Main South Community Development Corporation) – $95,000 to help support the Main South Business Association and the Minority Business Economic Empowerment project which works with partners within a Transformative Development Initiative (TDI) District to advocate for City supported investment to improve the physical infrastructure of the area through initiatives such as culturally sensitive storefront improvement projects and place making efforts. A central tenet of the project is to establish a path to real estate ownership in the commercial corridor by local, predominantly Latinx, business owners.

Photo courtesy of the office of Governor Baker.

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