Atlanta Open for Business Fund Making a Difference

Atlanta is often said to be the economic epicenter of the Southeast. The city boasts a multifaceted economy, corporate giants, film studios and the world's busiest airport. While many notice the growth in these large corporations, small businesses are also a thriving network, comprising nearly 15,000 enterprises, many of which are Black-owned—a testament to Atlanta's diverse entrepreneurial spirit.

In the heart of Atlanta's bustling economic landscape lies Invest Atlanta: a hub for small businesses navigating the city's competitive landscape. One of Invest Atlanta’s programs, the Atlanta Open for Business Fund, is making a difference.

As we conclude Small Business Month, the spotlight turns to how this program is making a big impact on small businesses in the city. In 2022, Wells Fargo made a $20 million philanthropic investment into the city, through partnership with the United Way of Greater Atlanta, to help grow small businesses. Since launching two years ago, nearly $9 million has been provided in grants, loans and technical assistance.

"Atlanta is a great city, but there remains a significant wealth gap. Part of closing that gap is helping small businesses thrive long term with greater access to capital and expertise,” emphasizes Senior Vice President of Philanthropy and Community Impact at Wells Fargo Tai Roberson.

“Public-private partnerships that support minority businesses play a big role in increasing economic equity in Atlanta. According to national averages, 35 percent of white business owners received all the financing they applied for, compared to 16 percent of Black business owners. The Atlanta Open for Business Fund is helping to level that playing field,” added Dr. Eloisa Klementich, president and CEO of Invest Atlanta.

Atlanta Open for Business has not only provided financial assistance to local businesses–it has also served as a catalyst for tangible change. To date, more than 200 small businesses have been supported through four different funds and technical assistance services.

“Atlanta’s small businesses are the lifeblood of our city’s vibrant economy. Through initiatives like the Atlanta Open for Business Fund, we are not just investing in businesses, but in the future of children, families and communities,” says United Way of Greater Atlanta President and CEO Milton J. Little, Jr. “These efforts support United Way’s Child Well-Being Agenda and are essential in closing the wealth gap to ensure that all entrepreneurs, especially minority and women-owned businesses, have the opportunity to thrive. The success of this program underscores the impact of public-private partnerships and community support in fostering economic equity and resilience in our city.”

Atlanta Open for Business is more than numbers. At the heart of our success are the people whose lives have been touched and their businesses forever changed. This program is not only about funds but also about the power and pride of community support.

Paris Stewart, owner of Tall Towers and recipient of the Commercial Property Improvement Grant shares, "I have learned so much about my business. The money helped me rebuild my building—floors, electrical infrastructure. You are going to get more than funds. You are going to get a support system."

Ginny Hodges McLendon, Senior Consultant with the Wells Fargo Foundation remarks, "As we enter into the last year of the program, we are excited to see what type of groundwork this investment has made to strengthen the small business community over the long term. It will go well beyond this three-year and $20 million investment, with life-changing wins for small businesses as we move forward together."

In a city teeming with opportunities, Atlanta’s Open for Business Fund stands as a testament to the power of community, collaboration and unwavering commitment. As Small Business Month unfolds, let us celebrate not just the numbers, but the stories of resilience, innovation and a true testament to the enduring spirit of Atlanta's small business community.

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