R.I. Foundation, McKee administration launch $150K initiative to support minority-owned businesses

PROVIDENCE – The Rhode Island Foundation and Gov. Daniel J. McKee jointly announced Monday that they are launching the $150,000 initiative to help enhance the growth and support of minority-owned businesses across Rhode Island.

The initiative is part of a collaboration between the foundation and R.I. Commerce Corp., where Camoin Associates, based out of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and the Providence-based Multicultural Innovation Center will work as partners on this project. The cost of the project will be split between R.I. Commerce and the Rhode Island Foundation.

The two organizations, the foundation said, will create a database of Black-, Latino-, Asian-, Indigenous- and multi-racial-owned businesses currently operating in Rhode Island that also builds on existing such databases the state has. Camoin and the innovation center will also assess resources currently supporting minority-owned businesses and minority entrepreneurs, the foundation said, and provide recommendations on organizational capacity, effectiveness, collaborations, gaps and opportunities for deeper investment. Such assessment will focus on the extent to which specific resources are provided to minority businesses at different stages of growth, the foundation said.

The organizations will also look at best national practices of existing strategies to assess effective models to support minority-owned businesses and entrepreneurs, the foundation said. They will also get feedback from existing minority businesses and business-supporting nonprofits to understand any needs and gaps that must be addressed.

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“Supporting and growing our small business sector in Rhode Island has been one of the top priorities of our Administration, but we need to ensure that growth and success are attainable for all Rhode Island business owners, especially those from underserved communities that may not have equal access to business opportunities,” McKee said in a statement.

Rhode Island Foundation CEO and President Neil D. Steinberg said in a statement Monday that the foundation and the state are committed to supporting the state’s minority-owned business segment that was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, and R.I. Commerce Corp. Secretary Stefan Pryor concurred in his respective statement.

“Minority-owned enterprises were severely impacted by the COVID crisis and it’s important for us to partner even more with this community and offer an even stronger structure for support,” Pryor said. “It is critical we take significant action at this stage, and this initiative is one meaningful step in the right direction.”

The foundation said a set of recommendations and next steps for developing and implementing new initiatives that draw upon best practices and fill identified gaps is expected to be completed by early fall.

James Bessette is the PBN special projects editor, and also covers the nonprofit and education sectors. You may reach him at Bessette@PBN.com. You may also follow him on Twitter at @James_Bessette.