ALEXANDRIA, VA — Programs supporting minority-owned businesses are slated to get reserve funds allocated in the latest Alexandria budget.
City Council set aside $500,000 in contingent reserve funds for minority business incubation in the fiscal year 2023 budget. On Tuesday, City Council will vote on releasing the funds to use for networking, resources, grants and other services.
The focus on minority owned business steps from the COVID-19 pandemic’s disproportionate impact on these businesses, according to a memo provided to City Council. The city attributed the impact to factors like access to capital and other resources as well as pressures of rising rents in Alexandria.
The initiative is also informed by a study released by the Northern Virginia Minority-Owned Businesses Working Group, which found minority-owned businesses experienced increased risk of economic impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic. The study attributed that to “most being small in size, concentrated in higher-risk industries, and struggling with access to capital.”
Outreach to local Black, indigenous and people of color-owned businesses found what kind of support these businesses are looking for. According to the city, businesses highlighted three key areas: the need for networking, resources and capital. The city plans to use the $500,000 in reserves set aside in the budget for these three areas.
For networking, the city will look to launch an incubator or business accelerator program to provide technical assistance and mentorship to new minority-owned businesses. The city will hold a solicitation process to select a partner to establish the program with a goal of launching by April 2023. This incubator concept would receive $200,000 of the funding.
In the resource area, the city plans to leverage existing city staffing as well as partners, including the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership and Alexandria Small Business Development Center. During outreach, some businesses were not aware of the city and partners’ existing resources and were given information. The city’s Office of Communications and Public Information will create a community engagement plan targeting Black, indigenous and people of color-owned small businesses.
Given minority-owned businesses’ challenges with access to capital, the city will recommend a grant program focused on Black, indigenous and people of color-owned small businesses. The program, with up to $250,000 in funds, could be launched by December with grants awarded and distributed by April 2023. The program would be administered by the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership.
The remaining $50,000 in reserves would go toward administration, outreach, translation services and compliance support for the focus areas.