City, state and county officials broke ground in April on the Black Business Hub, an equity-focused organization and resource center to be opened in South Madison, run by the Urban League of Greater Madison.
“This Hub is an opportunity to grow new businesses and for [Black business owners] to have access to resources that they do not have right now,” Urban League CEO Ruben Anthony Jr. said in an interview with The Badger Herald.
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The Hub will have an Accelerator program — which has raised $1.3 million so far — that would provide grants and loans to business owners, Anthony said. The program will also provide improved access to Capitol, technical assistance and networking, according to the Black Business Hub’s website.
The Hub will also host organizations that support women-owned businesses, Anthony said. Anthony said he believes the Hub should be a community organization dedicated to equity and uplifting the entire community.
“Why can’t we create businesses where these minority owned organizations have a chance to be owners?” Anthony said. “It’s time to start building some things so that the next generation of entrepreneurs have the chance to be CEOs.”
The Black Business Hub could also help revitalize South Madison and the surrounding area, District 14 Alderperson Sheri Carter said.
Carter thinks the location demonstrates diversity and inclusion in what she calls a ‘gateway’ area for the city, where many people enter Madison and get their first look at the city.
“When you think of 40,000 people who come into Madison via the South side, this is a showpiece that they’re coming into an area that is bright for development,” Carter said. “But not only that, an area of opportunity that everyone can see visually. The residents of South Madison, as always, embrace South Madison’s diversity and culture, and now is the showcase.”
Overall, Carter said the Hub will contribute to economic growth all around Madison and beyond. Carter also said the Hub will provide an example, showing what Black business owners can do.
“Children and young adults can see progress that is happening in their own backyard,” Carter said. “That’s a big plus, for kids to walk along, see Black businesses and dream of one day owning their own business but not only that, also supporting Black businesses.”
Executive Director of the MSAM Consortium at the Wisconsin Center for Educational Research Madeline Hafner echoed this sentiment. Hafner believes supporting Black businesses will create generational wealth, and help future generations of Black business owners thrive.
“First and foremost, kids see their families owning businesses,” Hafner said. “Families develop pride in that and see themselves as owners of businesses and not simply workers in businesses”
The Black Business Hub is part of a larger movement toward equity and against systemic oppressions, Hafner said.
Hafner defined equity in the context of education to compare it to the kind of equity being addressed through the Black Business Hub.
“What types of support do individual students need to access certain programs?” Hafner said. “And then there’s equity and success. How are we ensuring every student is successful in our schools? So it’s not about the same or distribution of resources, but equitable distribution of resources based on need.”
Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway was also in attendance at the ground-breaking ceremony, according to the Cap Times.
In an email statement, Rhodes-Conway emphasized the unity the Hub represents throughout Madison as a whole.
Rhodes-Conway said the Hub builds on a history of partnerships and investments from the city, the Community Development Authority and the Urban League of Dane County. The city is supporting the Hub at its South Madison site by investing more than $10 million dollars to “improve the Village on Park and deliver physical infrastructure needed for the Hub to succeed,” Rhodes-Conway said in the statement.
“The Black Business Hub will have a positive impact on Madison’s economic development, and will be a great resource for black businesses and entrepreneurs,” Rhodes-Conway said.
Beyond a growing factor for the local economy, Rhodes-Conway, Carter and Anthony said the Hub will be a uniting force for the Madison community. The Hub represents the community as a whole, and will contain not only Black businesses, but also brown, white, and latino businesses, Anthony said.
“The development of the Hub is like a broad community perspective,” Anthony said. “The County contributed funds, the City contributed funds, foundations contributed funds, private companies contributed funds, and so it is a genuine community partnership. It’s not just Black and brown people; it’s all of the community working together.”