More than 100 people gathered Thursday for a celebration of National Black Business Month and the grand opening of 190 West Business Resource Center in Coatesville.
Serving small business owners and entrepreneurs with free access to business coaching in such areas as financing, human resources, marketing and more, the 190 West Business Resource Center is a partnership between the Chester County Economic Development Council (CCEDC), West Chester University (WCU) and the Kutztown University Small Business Development Center (KUSBDC).
The new business resource center is located inside nth Innovation Center on 190 West Lincoln Highway, the first Qualified Opportunity Zone (QOZ) real estate project in Chester County. It’s also the first Keystone Innovation Zone (KIZ) in Coatesville, which CCEDC facilitated with an advocacy and application process that resulted in approval in less than two weeks.
“What an honor it is to not only witness — but also help advance — the reimagining of the City of Coatesville as a business and cultural hub,” said Gary Smith, CCEDC President and CEO. “Working with partners such as 2nd Century Alliance and City officials, CCEDC has assisted Coatesville businesses with financing, site selection, workforce training and other resources. This new center reflects our commitment to being accessible to the business owners who work, live and contribute to our community here.”
“West Chester University is proud to partner with CCEDC and Kutztown Small Business Development Center to help promote small businesses and entrepreneurship in Coatesville and the region,” said R. Lorraine (Laurie) Bernotsky, Executive Vice President and Provost, West Chester University of Pennsylvania. “Leveraging the talents of our excellent faculty and students to help strengthen neighboring communities is a great example of WCU’s mission to prepare students personally and professionally to contribute to the common good.”
“Small businesses are the lifeblood of our local communities,” said John Stettler, Director, and Kecia Sturdivant, Assistant Director of Kutztown SBDC. “They provide us with goods and services, help employ our fellow neighbors and inject life into our neighborhoods. Through this collaborative partnership with CCEDC, West Chester University, 2nd Century Alliance and the City of Coatesville, the KUSBDC is proud to continue our mission of helping businesses start, grow and prosper.”
The celebration included some of the 19 Coatesville business owners who have benefitted from CCEDC’s pilot program New Business Champions, which offers thousands of dollars in free services to help small businesses develop critical entrepreneurial skills. Oversubscribed since its launch in February, underrepresented businesses were given priority during the application process, with 51 businesses served across Chester County.
“It is especially meaningful to be opening 190 West Business Resource Center during National Black Business Month,” said James Logan, Coatesville City Manager. “We are excited to help ignite new businesses, especially black-owned businesses right here in Coatesville, and I look forward to once again working with CCEDC Culture, Equality and Leadership Consultant Marrea Walker-Smith. This completes a wonderful economic development partnership that includes 2nd Century and CCEDC.”
Services at 190 West Business Resource Center will be by appointment to accommodate the schedules of entrepreneurs who may be working additional jobs as they grow or get their new businesses off the ground. In addition to free, one-on-one coaching, the center plans to hold workshops on financing, business development, marketing and management strategies.
190 West Business Resource Center is located on the 2nd floor of nth Innovation Center, in a space reserved for emerging companies, including technology businesses benefitting from KIZ tax credits.
Active programming will begin after Labor Day but interested small business owners and entrepreneurs can get started now by submitting their introductory information at ccedcpa.com/190-west-brc/.
The launch of 190 West Business Resource Center is a key initiative of CCEDC’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Strategic Plan, approved in May following input from more than 50 community and business leaders. The plan, which was approved by CCEDC’s Board of Directors, was formulated over the last year by CCEDC’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force. In addition to establishing business support in a historically underserved community, DE&I initiatives include a culturally inclusive communications strategy; internal training for CCEDC staff and board; and developing a loan program that prioritizes lending for minority- and women-owned businesses.
“To make a real difference in underserved communities and populations, we know that we need to be present and accessible,” said Mike Grigalonis, CCEDC’s Chief Operating Officer. “190 West Business Resource Center will help us make impactful strides. We also hope to make an announcement soon regarding a new micro loan program that prioritizes lending to minority- and women-owned businesses across Chester County.”