WEDC, DWD announce $600,000 in grants to the Urban League for Black wealth building and economic empowerment initiatives

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The Urban League of Greater Madison held a press conference on Friday to announce nearly $600,000 in new funding for workforce and economic development projects focused on upskilling workers and supporting Black entrepreneurs.

“We are here today to announce that we are getting nearly $600,000 in grants from two agencies in support of the Urban League programs. We are so happy to have these funds because we will be able to do some more outstanding programming for this community,” said Dr. Ruben Anthony, president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Madison.

The Urban League of Greater Madison is receiving a $400,000 Capital Catalyst grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) to help the organization launch its Black Business Hub Accelerator Fund and nearly $200,000 from the Department of Workforce Development that will help ULGM recruit and train more than 90 job seekers in various career pathways at Exact Sciences.

Dr. Ruben Anthony, president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Madison.
(Photo by David Dahmer)

“These two grants will be instrumental in accelerating the Urban League’s economic empowerment and wealth-building efforts. Careers in high-tech industries like bioscience and entrepreneurs are key to closing the racial disparities in wealth,” Anthony said. “We are excited that WEDC and DWD recognize this and are making this investment in our community. These funds will allow us to improve lives and have a lasting impact on this community.”

In 2022, ULGM will be creating the South Madison Black Business Hub, a four-story, 76,000 square foot building to be located at the corner of Park Street and Hughes Place, that will be designed to offer businesses owned by people of color a chance to have a physical location, serve as a commerce hub, and have an on-site ecosystem of entrepreneur support services.

“The funds that we are receiving from WEDC will allow us to overcome some of the biggest challenges that Black businesses face — and that challenge is having access to capital,” Anthony says. “A lot of time, Black and minority businesses are not bankable. But having these funds will allow us to provide loans and grants to these small businesses.”

The Black Business Hub Accelerator Fund will offer loans, grants and culturally competent technical assistance to at least 40 startups and existing companies owned by people of color. 

“This $400,000 grant from WEDC for the Black Business Hub is really indicative of the work that we need to be doing throughout Wisconsin to help Black businesses really be successful,” said Missy Hughes, WEDC secretary and CEO. “It is incredibly hard to be able to have an access to capital and to be able to have the support you need. Something like this not only creates that access to capital, it creates a network of support that we need to have in order for businesses to get the technical support they need, to be able to learn about how to run finances and inventories and marketing – all of these complicated things that come along with the passion that you have when you start a business.”

Department of Workforce Development Secretary Amy Pechacek said that the grant of over $185,000 the DWD is awarding ULGM will support its workforce training project, the molecular diagnostics career academy with Exact Sciences.

“The molecular diagnostics career academy is a collaboration between the Urban League of Greater Madison and Exact Sciences to recruit, screen, train, place and coach at least 90 job seekers for entry into this high-growth biomedical field,” Pechacek said. “The project will help Exact Sciences meet its workforce needs through an accelerated short-term career academy model. During the training, unemployed and underemployed workers will develop an extensive set of transferable skills.

“At least 75 percent of the students will be people of color, Indigenous, and other populations that are underrepresented in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields,” she added.

Tanisha Harbert, the founder of Madison’s first Black-owned beauty school, Chanell Ardor Schools of Beauty and Culture, has worked in the south Madison area for two decades and is looking forward to being a part of the new Black Business Hub.

Tanisha Harbert, the founder of Madison’s first Black-owned beauty school, Chanell Ardor Schools of Beauty and Culture
(Photo by David Dahmer)

“It’s really an honor to be a part of such a great opportunity — just to be part of a program that can take my business to the next level … it’s even more amazing,” Harbert said. “I’ve been in the community for about 20 years. I started right here on Park Street. 

“This is something that is really needed in the community. It’s important for me to stay in this community to continue to serve the people in this area and also to be able to give back,” she added. “Being able to be a part of something like this that will be the foundation to help people move forward and create that generational wealth for families, to have sustainable incomes, to meet the staffing needs … it’s just amazing.  I’m honored to be even considered to be a part of it.”