A Navy Yard developer and Comcast Corp. said Thursday that they are each putting $1 million into financial assistance to support the business aspirations of women and people of under-represented groups in Philadelphia.
Ensemble/Mosaic, a joint venture of Ensemble Real Estate Investments and Mosaic Development Partners, said it’s seeking to help diversify the workforce and business ownership in the sprawling $2.6 billion project in South Philadelphia through a nonprofit organization seeded initially with $1 million. Comcast is offering $10,000 each to 100 businesses with 25 or fewer employees that struggled with the pandemic.
They are the latest efforts by Philadelphia institutions on social equity issues, triggered in part by the killing of George Floyd and the ensuing protests. Nearly a dozen new investment funds have been launched in the Philadelphia region, aspiring to raise at least $300 million or more for Black, Indigenous, and people of color, or BIPOC, business owners.
Leslie Smallwood-Lewis, a cofounder of Mosaic, said that “diverse populations have to feel welcomed at the Navy Yard.” To help make that happen, the developer is creating the nonprofit with the initial $1 million and continued funding with 2% of net operating income after debt service on buildings that it leases to tenants. The group broke ground on its first life sciences building in March.
The first $100,000 grant will be provided to a worker-training program run by the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp. at the Navy Yard. In the future, the Ensemble/Mosaic TNY Empowerment Foundation also will help women and BIPOC businesses relocate to the Navy Yard with grants or loans and help diversify construction contractors and workers, the organization said.
Smallwood-Lewis said the foundation also will expose a diverse population to the real estate industry through internships and mentorships.
Kate McNamara, senior vice president for the Navy Yard at the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp., a public-private agency, said she was “incredibly excited” and could add 16 to 20 program participants in the worker-training program in the coming year with the new funds. The Navy Yard Skills Initiative was launched in 2020 and has graduated 53 participants, with 98% offered full-time jobs, McNamara said. The program works with specific employers.
In its latest round of funding, Comcast said it would distribute $1 million in Philadelphia to small businesses owned by people of color, including Black, Indigenous, Hispanic, and Asian Americans, and women. Comcast first offered the grants in April 2021. The latest round is part of a $5 million nationwide program.
Chanda Anderson, the owner of the Chanda’s Hair Studio and Uptown Hair Salon, both in Cedarbrook, told Comcast that her 2021 grant helped her “stay afloat; I used it to purchase hair for my clients and actually generate some income. At a time when I was seeing one client a day in my house versus five to seven clients a day pre-pandemic, it helped more than you can imagine.”
Beginning on June 1, and through June 14, eligible businesses in Atlanta, Detroit, Pittsburgh, and the Twin Cities, in addition to Philadelphia, can apply for a $10,000 grant at www.ComcastRISE.com. A total of 100 grants a city, or 500 grants overall, will be announced and awarded in July 2022.
Third-party panels will choose winners, Comcast spokeswoman Jennifer Bilotta said.
“While we know that no single organization can solve historic and systemic inequities overnight, we are committed to taking tangible actions that can drive long-term impact and change,” said Dennis Mathew, a Comcast senior vice president. He said the funding “will provide more entrepreneurs with the resources and tools they need to scale their businesses.”
Through the same program, Comcast has awarded nearly 400 marketing and technology packages to small businesses in Philadelphia owned by people of color and women. Businesses also can apply for those packages at www.ComcastRISE.com.