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800 Initiative will empower minority businesses
800 Initiative will empower minority businesses
Posted on 05/29/2018
Mayor Jim Strickland announced today the launch of The 800 Initiative, an unprecedented, intensive program to empower minority-owned businesses in Memphis and increase equity in the city’s economy.

Mayor Strickland making the announcementThe 800 Initiative will be a significant enhancement of front-line programming to scale up minority businesses, including technical assistance, coaching, loans, and grants. The program will target the roughly 800 African-American-owned businesses in Memphis that are in between start-up and full scale phases, with a goal of growing their annual revenue by $50 million by 2023.

The 800 Initiative is made possible by a $500,000 allocation in Mayor Strickland’s proposed 2018-19 budget and a generous $1 million commitment over four years by FedEx. Christian Brothers University, StartCo, and Epicenter are lead partners and will provide strategy and programming assistance. Other resource partners will also be included at a later stage, including Tennessee Small Business Development Centers, the Black Business Association of Memphis, and the Mid-South Minority Business Council.

“To truly boost our economy, we must do everything we can to empower small businesses. And for us to have a direct impact on generational poverty, and to achieve true equity in our economy, we know we must do everything we can to empower minority-owned businesses,” Mayor Strickland said. “The 800 Initiative isn’t just a step in the right direction — it’s a major leap forward.”

Said David Cunningham, president and CEO of FedEx Express: “Contributing to The 800 Initiative is one of many ways FedEx is helping promote economic development in Memphis. Supporting the communities where our team members live and work is a priority for FedEx. It’s especially important here in our global headquarters of Memphis. While Memphis is praised in media reports for having high number of minority-owned firms, those firms represent only 2.7 percent of the total business receipts. Studies show that a successful minority business community generates significant economic benefits, not just for the minority community, but for the entire city. Helping to double the revenues of the firms that will be part of the 800 Initiative is one of the best investments FedEx can make.”

The 800 Initiative’s programming will be hosted by the City’s Office of Business Diversity & Compliance at the renovated historic Universal Life building. Local venture development group and accelerator StartCo will administer much of the programming, network building and capital acquisition and fundraising. Epicenter, a local entrepreneurship hub, will provide some technical assistance through their Entrepreneurs In Residence program.

Christian Brothers University will launch a Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship to coordinate programming with The 800 Initiative. CBU also plans to provide entrepreneurship-related course offerings, job placements for students, and experiential learning credit.

“Partnering with the City and FedEx on The 800 Initiative is yet another means for CBU to address our strategic priority to help advance the region’s economic appeal and promote fiscal empowerment for our students and partners,” said Dr. John Smarrelli, president of Christian Brothers University. “Obviously, this is much more than an economic development initiative. At heart, this is about equity and empowerment, and I am extremely proud for CBU to shepherd this effort.

The City’s most recent disparity study identified 69,000 total non-publicly-owned firms in Memphis, producing $36.5 billion in revenue. Of those, 38 percent are white-owned — yet those firms account for more than 90 percent of that revenue.

Under the leadership of Mayor Strickland and Director of Business Diversity & Compliance Joann Massey, the City has dramatically increased its own minority contracting — from 12 percent of City contracting dollars when he took office to 21 percent in his first full fiscal year. The City’s focus on increasing its own minority business contracting and building up local minority businesses to better be able to land private sector contracts is a significant reason why Fast Company magazine recently named Memphis the No. 1 city in America for black-owned businesses.

“It is imperative that we lead by example at City Hall and that we get even further involved in building minority businesses,” Mayor Strickland said. “As we cast our vision for a third century that’s more prosperous and has more pathways to opportunity, these efforts must be at the very center.”

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