The cold and snow did not hamper the spirits of those who attended the Black Business Hub’s groundbreaking event, which featured speakers from the community, as well as state and local officials including Governor Tony Evers and Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes Conway.
The proposed four-story, 76,000 square foot Black Business Hub was first announced in 2020, and will hold spaces to support at least 100 Black-owned businesses and entrepreneurs. Dr. Ruben Anthony is the President of the Urban League of Greater Madison. He says that the hub will do more than just provide retail space for Black-owned businesses..
“African-American businesses are often good at working in their business, they have the skill to do their business, but not sometimes the time to work on their business. So we will provide training and educational assistance, we will provide coaching and mentoring, we will provide shared services. Sometimes you have to have (the ability) to take advantage of mass purchasing, and we will be able to do that for commodities of scale, and be able to buy marketing services, HR services, technology services, all at affordable prices,” Dr. Anthony says.
Governor Evers spoke about the importance of the Hub, and why he decided to help fund the Black Business Hub through the Neighborhood Investment Fund Program. That program was started last year to award grants to projects throughout Wisconsin to help people and communities bounce back after the COVID-19 pandemic.
“…I think it’s safe to say that this is exactly what the business hub will be doing, by connecting the dots between entrepreneurs and small business owners not only to open brick-and-mortar shops but to offer financial assistance, access to capital, technical assistance, networking, all the while creating jobs right here in the community, ” Governor Evers says.
As of Friday morning, the Black Business Hub had raised around $17 million, enough to begin construction, but still short of their $25 million goal. That changed during the press conference, as US Senator Tammy Baldwin made a surprise virtual visit to announce the Hub will receive a $1 million federal grant, bringing them closer to their goal.
Another announcement at Friday’s groundbreaking came from Summit Credit Union, who announced that they will be opening a full service branch within the Black Business Hub, which will help operate as a financial wellness resource for Black businesses. They join Exact Sciences, the Madison Black Chamber of Commerce, and Hope Community Capital as confirmed tenants of the Hub. Edward Lee, the vice president of the Urban League, says that he is also in contact with over 50 Black owned businesses who have expressed interest in using the space.
The placement of the Black Business Hub on South Park Street is significant to the project, says Madison alder Sheri Carter. She says that the area has undergone constant change, and that she thinks the Hub will bring a new entrepreneurial energy to South Madison.
“The building that’s going to be built is so much more than a building. This building is going to bridge the gap that financial institutions have never addressed for people of color to thrive, to create, to succeed, to create synergy, to be able to dream, and that dream becoming reality for many entrepreneurs and future entrepreneurs,” Carter says.
The Black Business Hub is slated to open in early 2023.
Photos courtesy: Nate Wegehaupt / WORT News Team