Madison Common Council President Samba Baldeh and Vice President Sheri Carter, along with Mayor Paul Soglin, announced a new fund that will focus the city’s existing business development resources in support of Madison businesses owned and operated by people of color.

At a press conference, Soglin cited inequality in access to resources by historically underrepresented communities as a focus for the Equity Business Initiative.

“We know, throughout the United States and throughout our nation’s history, there has been enormous disparity … particularly as it pertains to the differences between white and the African-American communities,” Soglin said.

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The initiative has four tiers. The first will offer training, coaching and grants to 30 people of color who are in the premature stages of starting a business.

The second tier will provide a city-sponsored dollar for dollar match to up to 10 businesses upon completion of loans through the Kiva Madison Program. Kiva Madison is an international nonprofit that works to provide zero percent interest, crowdfunded micro-loans.

The third tier will offer 10 businesses grants of up to $50,000 each.

The fourth tier looks to assist existing business owners looking to purchase or develop a commercial building for their business. The program will provide a zero percent loan with no payments due unless the property is sold. The loans will be valued at up to $250,000 or 35 percent of the total cost of the building or development project.

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“It’s our belief that without changes in regards to entrepreneurship and business ownership, while we can make progress in closing many of these gaps, the end of these disparities will only come when we have change … how we approach the ownership of businesses,” Soglin said.

Ald. Sheri Carter, District 14, also spoke at the press conference.

As an alder, she serves on a multitude of committees, including the Community Development Authority and Common Council Executive Committee.

“We join many cities in this great nation that have committed to paving the path of opportunity in entrepreneurship for people of color,” Carter said. “Entrepreneurship is a way for financial security, but more importantly is an investment in the city of Madison’s whole community.”