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BATTLE CREEK, MICH. – BCVision’s economic development efforts received a significant boost at a Steering Committee meeting today, with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) announcement of a $10 million investment to establish a Battle Creek Small Business Loan Fund.
“We are committed to accelerating transformation in Battle Creek so that all children will thrive. Creating a vibrant economic climate is critical to changing conditions and that requires all of us to concentrate efforts and speed up the process,” said La June Montgomery Tabron, WKKF’s president and CEO. “The Battle Creek Small Business Loan Fund will provide the capital and technical assistance that can spark small business development and help local entrepreneurs scale up.”
BCVision, a community effort launched by WKKF and the Kellogg Company to address the city’s most serious issues, is prioritizing equitable economic development, creating quality jobs and expanding small business activity to stimulate growth which leads to increased income among families in Battle Creek.
WKKF is kicking this off with an immediate $1 million investment to the Battle Creek Small Business Fund and will match local investments 2:1, up to $10 million. The locally-designed and locally-supported fund will increase access to capital for Battle Creek entrepreneurs and new businesses for the city.
Major contributions from the Kellogg Company, Battle Creek Unlimited (BCU) and The Miller Foundation already total $1.8 million. With the 2:1 match for local contributions and the $1 million, the Battle Creek’s Small Business Loan Fund is $6.4 million to date.
Local investors are excited about this collective effort and what it can offer residents toward advancing economic development in the city.
“Our founder, W.K. Kellogg, was also a small business owner in Battle Creek at one time and that entrepreneurial spirit lives on in this community,” said Steve Cahillane, Kellogg Company Chairman and CEO. “It is one of the many reasons we are proud to call Battle Creek home and why we remain steadfast in our determination to have a positive impact on this community, now and in the years ahead. This includes our continued support for BCVision and its efforts to improve local economic conditions for business owners and residents.”
“Battle Creek Unlimited is excited about the future of economic development in Battle Creek, and we are pleased to commit to the new loan fund,” said Joe Siobieralski, BCU president and CEO. “Our entire BCU Team, from the board of directors to the staff, applaud the commitment of the many organizations in our city, working together to advance economic opportunities for everyone in Battle Creek.”
“We are excited about this opportunity to offer small business loans and grants to Battle Creek residents,” said Sara Wallace, president and CEO for The Miller Foundation. “Our trustees have approved providing matching grants funds and are also considering adding additional dollars to the fund to help things happen for small business and economic development, to help create a bright future here in Battle Creek.”
The new fund will be managed by Northern Initiatives, a 25-year-old community development financial institution that awarded its 1,000th loan last year, and originated $60 million in loans throughout its history, creating more than 4,000 jobs. One-third of their loans have been to start-ups, one-third to women-owned businesses and 73 percent have been directed to Michigan’s underserved communities. Northern Initiatives will open an office in downtown Battle Creek, and hire a local business developer and loan officer.
The loan fund is open to all small businesses, and supporting entrepreneurs of color also will be a priority. The fund is designed to invest in start-up enterprises that struggle to gain access to capital, as well as existing small businesses looking to accelerate growth. Businesses with a Battle Creek address and/or a physical location in Battle Creek will be eligible for applying for a small business loan.
“One of the primary challenges small businesses face, especially those owned by women and people of color, is access to capital,” said Tabron. “The Battle Creek Small Business Loan Fund will exist to provide capital solutions, which combined with robust technical assistance, will support these critical opportunities. It is one part of a comprehensive city re-development plan.”
Start-up support is an essential part of creating a thriving and equity-driven entrepreneurial ecosystem. A new enterprise incubator offering technical assistance to help residents nurture, refine and turn their ideas into businesses, including business development knowledge, mentoring and connections for capital growth, will be available in late 2018.
John Gallagher, board chair for Battle Creek Unlimited and a trustee of The Miller Foundation, expressed encouragement for the initiatives aimed at expanding small businesses and creating quality jobs.
“We are supporting activities that will contribute to the economic vitality of Battle Creek,” Gallagher said. “It has been an honor to work with our partners to make this a reality. Our entire community will enjoy the benefits of these investments.”
Also at today’s Steering Committee meeting, Battle Creek City Manager Rebecca Fleury shared a tool for visualizing the opportunities for the city's initial master development plan, which is being finalized.
“These collaborations are helping to revitalize Battle Creek and create change that we can all take great pride in,” Fleury said. “I applaud the collective efforts of BCVision which have led to making the loan fund possible, recruiting the nation’s leading economic development and urban planning strategists for our community, and setting an environment where we have many voices working together for a better Battle Creek.”
Developer Mark Harmsen shared an update on the progress of the Heritage Tower revitalization project, slated for opening in 2019. As an important economic milestone in downtown Battle Creek, the renovation calls for 85 apartments on the upper floors, with robust retail and restaurant space on the first two floors.
A revitalized Heritage Tower will bring new residents, new jobs and new opportunities to live, work and play in Battle Creek,” said Joel Wittenberg, WKKF vice president and chief investment officer. “This $28 million investment in the Heritage Tower, once completed, could create 125 new jobs in addition to numerous tax revenues, and offers a major boost toward a thriving downtown.”
Additionally, two firms have been identified - Detroit’s GWJ Group to partner with the city on downtown development support and nationally-renowned HR&A Advisors to work with public, business, civic and community leaders on a broad economic development strategy for Battle Creek.
For details on how to apply for a loan with Battle Creek’s Small Business Fund, please contact Northern Initiatives’ Melissa Evans at 231.375.9867 or Venard Roberson at 616.329.6188 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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About the W.K. Kellogg Foundation
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal pioneer, Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to help break the cycle of poverty by removing barriers based on race or income that hold back children, so they can realize their full potential in school, work and life.
The Kellogg Foundation is based in Battle Creek, Michigan, and works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special emphasis is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans; and internationally, are in Mexico and Haiti.