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City of Madison hopes to help diversify business ownership

MADISON (WKOW) — The City of Madison wants to start a new initiative to increase the amount of businesses owned by minorities and city leaders are offering thousands of dollars to do it.

The goal is to help address the city’s disparity gap between white people and people of color, according to Mayor Paul Soglin.

Currently, the city has the MarketReady program which helped bring Luna’s Grocery to the Allied Neighborhood. The Equity Business Initiative would build on that program to diversify business ownership in Madison.

The initiative would offer training, business coaching and small grants to 30 people of color who are in the early stages of starting a business.

It would also offer 10 businesses up to $50,000 each in a grant to keep them viable and competitive.

The plan would also help existing businesses that are owned by minorities. Soglin said one of the tiers of the initiative would help those businesses expand and grow by providing a zero percent loan with no payments due unless the property is sold. The program will loan up to $250,000 or 35 percent of the total cost of the building or development project.

“It’s about equity and moving the city forward,” said Samba Baldeh, the president of Madison’s Common Council. “Because all of us who live here — the crimes that we see in the streets are a result of the opportunities that people of color lack.”

The hope is to bring the businesses to neighborhoods in Madison.

Soglin called the initiative a blueprint for helping tackle racial disparities in Madison.

He said the plan could evolve or change over the next few months, but he hopes the initiative will remain, no matter the result of next week’s mayoral election in which Soglin is being challenged by Satya Rhodes-Conway.

Hunter Sáenz

Reporter, WKOW

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