Funding will be used to help businesses in New Orleans East, Treme, and Algiers respond to the unprecedented economic downturn caused by COVID
NEW ORLEANS – The New Orleans Business Alliance (NOLABA) has announced a significant $400,000 investment from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) Sprint Challenge to support Phase Two of its Resilient Corridors Initiative. The Resilient Corridors Initiative (RCI) was launched in partnership with the City of New Orleans in 2020 as part of an intentional and strategic response to meet the needs of vital communities most vulnerable to disasters like the COVID-19 pandemic.
The initial RCI $350,000 pilot program was launched last year to provide much-needed support to businesses and commercial corridors within seven neighborhoods identified as part of the NOLABA Strategic Neighborhood Development (SND) Strategy: New Orleans East, Lower 9, Hollygrove, Gert Town, Gentilly, Treme, and Algiers. NOLABA and the City of New Orleans invested an initial $250,000 to initiate Phase One of the program, which currently supports a cohort of 40 businesses presently located in or with plans to expand within these target neighborhoods.
Businesses chosen to participate in Phase One received $5,000 in grant funding to support their operations as well as access to capital and technical support from a cadre of diverse experts and practitioners to help them sustain viable commercial presences through this pandemic-related economic downturn.
The SPRINT Challenge was designed to harness America’s entrepreneurial potential to address the economic, health, and safety risks caused by the coronavirus pandemic through entrepreneurship and innovation. This national competition supports the development, creation, or expansion of programs such as the Resilient Corridors Initiative that accelerate technology-based economic development and respond to the challenges caused by the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.
In partnership with the EDA, the City, and other collaborative partners, NOLABA will use this grant to provide additional technical assistance and build capacity for another 40 small business owners. The grant funding will allow for over 600 additional hours of direct technical assistance and hands-on support with legal issues, marketing, branding, back-office operations, accounting, and more. The seven neighborhoods selected to participate in Resilient Corridors have experienced decades of disinvestment, making the impacts of COVID-19 especially devastating. Utilizing a place-based approach and leveraging the current resiliency factors of communities like New Orleans East, Treme, and Algiers (e.g., physical assets and current industry clustering), these neighborhoods will serve as the hubs of entrepreneurial-led efforts to transform the overall New Orleans economy.
With its receipt of this grant, NOLABA and partners will work closely alongside local entrepreneurs to reimagine product innovation, showcase the cultural richness of New Orleans, and carve a space for entrepreneurial ideation in thriving industries like biotech, healthcare, and food production.
As part of a longer-term growth strategy for the City of New Orleans, the Resilient Corridors Initiative will scale largely Black-owned small businesses in the primary service areas, creating generational prosperity for decades to come.
“This grant award represents a lot of hard work by NOLABA’s Strategic Neighborhood Development and Grants Administration teams, in conjunction with the communities that we endeavor to serve better,” said NOLABA President & CEO Quentin L. Messer, Jr. “This award will not address all of the challenges before us, and much remains to be done. However, it is a most welcome validation that New Orleans, its residents, and NOLABA as its accredited economic development organization; remain worthy, willing, and able to receive these types of investment and implement best practices to transform our neighborhoods.”
“As a small business owner navigating the day-to-day uncertainties COVID-19 continues to have on operations, the resources New Orleans Business Alliance provides are quite impactful to our efforts to remain a viable commercial development during this economic period. I believe the intentionality and the leadership of the Resiliency Initiative will have a lasting equitable impact on the reinvestment of disparaged communities in Orleans Parish,” said Founder & CEO of Cajun Fire Brewing Company Jon Renthrope.
“Our team is delighted to partner with EDA in supporting small businesses within our target neighborhoods to accelerate planned milestones, create and implement resiliency plans to expand company footprints, enact safety/health business protocols, and cross collaborate with other businesses to identify new lines of service and enter into new markets. This pool of funding is yet another way to assist these critical small business owners, who serve as the lifeblood of our local economy,” said NOLABA Assistant VP of Strategic Neighborhood Development Greg Lawson.
The Resilient Corridors Initiative is just one component of NOLABA’s broader strategy and ongoing efforts to leverage public and private funding to address the economic, health, and safety risks caused by the pandemic. Since launching its Gig Economy Workers COVID-19 Relief Fund in March 2020 – the first dedicated relief effort in the state – NOLABA has continued to identify and meet the needs of New Orleanians, having raised over $1.5M in direct relief funding throughout the year.
For more information on NOLABA or available resources, visit www.nolaba.org.
For more on the EDA Sprint Challenge, visit www.eda.gov/oie/sprint.