Madison proposes loan program for business owners of color

A proposed pilot program in Madison would set aside $500,000 for loans available to business owners of color. The loans could be used for business owners to buy or build commercial property.

Supporters, including Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway and a number of city alders, said the funding would allow business owners from traditionally disadvantaged groups to gain a measure of security and potential wealth by owning their business properties.

“Racial justice cannot be achieved without programs like this to address economic justice, which will allow African Americans the ability to become more autonomous in our destinies,” said Alder Samba Baldeh.

According to a release announcing the creation of the program Tuesday, the initiative will start with $500,000 but that amount could increase should the program prove successful. Business owners who take out the loans would not have to pay back the city unless they sell the property.

"This program will encourage and support entrepreneurship in minority communities that have historically faced barriers in accessing capital to start and grow their businesses, especially in the Park Street corridor,” said

Common Council President Sheri Carter. “In addition, this program will integrate people of color in the business community which lacks diversity in ownership. This isn't a hand out but a pathway to entrepreneurship.”

The release said the loans will go primarily toward people of color, women, immigrants, residents with disabilities, and veterans. The announcement noted that while 27 percent of Madison's population are people of color, that portion of the community amounts to only 3 to 9 percent of the city's business owners.

“This is a good first step to support wealth-building and also to help prevent displacement in our communities, especially in neighborhoods at risk of gentrification,” said Rhodes-Conway. “It is one of numerous steps we must take to fully address the disparities in our community.”

The announcement said the city's Economic Development Committee will discuss more details about the program at its meeting Wednesday evening.

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