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U.S. Bank Foundation Opportunity Fund Helps Small Businesses Grow and Thrive

Monday, 10 June 2024 09:45 AM

U.S. Bank

Grants boost nonprofits working to increase wealth-building opportunities in low- to moderate-income communities

NORTHAMPTON, MA / ACCESSWIRE / June 10, 2024 / U.S. Bank
Originally published on U.S. Bank company blog

Small businesses are the lifelines of many communities, and the U.S. Bank Foundation* has invested in nonprofit organizations providing small business support for years through its Community Possible grant program and, now, the U.S. Bank Foundation Opportunity Fund**.

The Warm Springs Community Action Team offers financial skills and workforce training and small business coaching and counseling to youth and adults residing on the Warm Springs Reservation in north-central Oregon.

"Supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses helps drive economic growth and build thriving communities, and we're proud to support organizations that are creating access and opportunities for more people to make their business dreams a reality," said Erica Opstad, managing director of the U.S. Bank Foundation.

The foundation recently distributed more than $6.5 million in Opportunity Fund grants to nonprofits that are helping to increase access to capital and services for entrepreneurs in low- to moderate-income communities, including rural and Native American communities and communities of color. That includes two organizations in different parts of the country, but with similar goals to boost economic development and equity within the communities they serve.

Fostering small businesses in North Dakota

Developing an ecosystem of small businesses can be difficult in rural areas, but the Red River Regional Council in northeast North Dakota recognizes the opportunities to build community connections and drive economic growth through something everyone needs - food. While many emerging "food-preneurs" often start by selling their goods from home or through farmers markets, they often need access to a commercially licensed kitchen to scale their businesses. The cost of securing that space can be a barrier.

With support from a U.S. Bank Foundation Opportunity Fund grant, the council's Red River Community Housing Development arm is aiming to renovate an historic building called 532 Hill in Grafton, North Dakota, to become a regional innovation lab. The building will include a shared-use commercial kitchen and spaces for retailers, offices, co-working and community gatherings. The organization also plans to convene a network of small business advisors, funding partners and mentors to provide support to entrepreneurs, in addition to creating programming with input from artists, educators, foodies and others.

"We're looking to provide a space that welcomes newcomers, celebrates diversity and creates new connections," said Dawn Mandt, executive director of the Red River Regional Council. "The investment from the U.S. Bank Foundation affirms our vision and enables our organization to support leaders who are critical to building equitable and inclusive rural prosperity - as well as building an environment that supports people in trying new things and even failing."

Expanding economic equity in Oregon

The Warm Springs Community Action Team (WSCAT) is a community development organization working to empower individuals and groups of people on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation, in north-central Oregon, to realize their potential, become self-reliant and effect positive change for themselves, their families and their community. The organization offers programs focused on small business development, homeownership, workforce and youth development and more to about 1,000 people each year, and is building a small business incubator for tribal entrepreneurs.

The U.S. Bank Foundation Opportunity Fund grant will help WSCAT grow its small business coaching and counseling program, provide financial education and skills training for teens and young adults, and further develop its technology workforce program. WSCAT plans to utilize its small businesses, such as the Painted Pony Café and Twisted Teepee food cart, and work with local organizations, such as the Tananawit arts organization, to enhance its workforce training and mentoring opportunities. The grant also will support the American Indian Business Leaders club and financial education programs for Native youth at Madras High School, the local high school attended by tribal youth.

"Organizations like ours have to fight for every dollar to sustain our operations and to serve our community. For us to succeed, we have to be lean and mean," said Chris Watson, executive director of Warm Springs Community Action Team. "Support like this gives us a little breathing room and enables us to provide broader, deeper services."

*U.S. Bank Foundation is a tax-exempt private foundation described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. The Foundation is funded primarily through contributions from U.S. Bank National Association and its affiliates and subsidiaries. The Foundation's mission is to close the gaps between people and possibility in the areas of work, home, and play.

**The Opportunity Fund represents a financial commitment of the U.S. Bank Foundation; it is not a traditional equity fund, nor does it represent a form of ownership.

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SOURCE: U.S. Bank

Topic:
Environmental, Social and Governance
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