YES : MONEY IS COMING TO ROXBURY

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^ Access to Capital panel : Ed Merritt, Ron Walker, Teri Williams, Richard Soo Hoo, Rafael Carbonell, Bruce Bickerstaff

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Big changes are afoot in the part of Boston called Roxbury. The 120 million dollar reconstruction of the Ferdinand Building in Dudley Square has reached the leasing stage, with many enterprises competing for street-level retail spaces. Above them will be the 500 employees of Boston’s Public School administration, re-locating from its present Downtown digs.

This by itself i big economic news. 500 well-paid employees will be eating lunch in Dudley Square. Some will do a bit of shopping there. many will stop for coffee before the work day or stay for coffee after it. If the 500 employees spend an average of just $ 10 a day in Dudley, it adds up to $ 25,000 every work week, $ 1,250,000 a year.

Spread over the entire Roxbury community, that’s not a huge amount, but it’s not to be shooed away. If anything, this million-plus dollars has already started the big money ball rolling through Roxbury’s business district. thus it was excellent timing to find Roxbury’s City Councillor, Tito Jackson, emceeing an “Access to Capital” Forum last night, to help channel some of that money ball into the area’s entrepreneurs and business hopefuls.

There, at the Boys and Girls Club, were seven major money and business players, including Rafael Carbonell from the City of Boston’s Neighborhood Development Office, Bruce Bickerstaff of the Zoning Board of Appeals, two bank presidents (Ed Merritt of Mt Washington Bank and Teri Williams of one United), a venture capitalist, and an advisor from the Boston Foundation. Successful entrepreneur Glynn Lloyd (of City Fresh Foods) also spoke.

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^ Glynn Lloyd of City Fresh foods

About 50 community business owners and hopefuls attended. They learned a lot about what is needed if one wants access to capital : a financial statement,m tax returns, cash flow, earnings, equity in real estate. All of this is standard stuff. Apply for a small business loan at any bank, and these are what the loan officer will ask for. I heard no exceptions, no deals offered that would waive these basics. There was also talk, by CPA Richard Soo Hoo, of how to assure that a business retains some of the money it takes ion — basic accounting. Again, no exceptions, and no compromising the requirements.

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^ Ed Merritt, President of Mt Washington Bank

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^ Teri Williams, President of One United, the nation’s largest Black-owned bank

Little was said about access to venture capital and nothing at all about access to start-up funding — “angel” investing, as it’s called. mayor Walsh has stated that the Ferdinand Building will set aside space for local start-up businesses; but how are these to start if there’s no start-up financing ? Start-up entrepreneurs don’t always have equity in real estate, or credit, or more than survival money at all. What they have is an idea and a business plan. What they need is ‘angel” investing. It would have been nice had an ‘angel” investor or two been on offer at the Forum.

Still, there was one-on-one networking after the formal Forum time ended, and many local entrepreneur hopefuls talked privately with the bank presidents and with each other. The process of bringing money into Roxbury businesses will not happen on a finger snap. It will take years to establish. Yet last night seemed a decent first step. Hopefully money people will follow it up. Certainly they should, because money is coming into Roxbury — real estate, business, city administration. What demographic shape that money will create for Roxbury — will the money empower local residents first, newcomers to the neighborhood later ? — is not yet clear, but vast change has already started and is gaining momentum.

—- Mike Freedberg / Roxbury Here

below : the emcee himself : District City Councillor Tito Jackson

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