Seattle Office of Economic Development announces new program giving Seattle business owners the tools to stay in their communities
Business Community Ownership Fund (BCO Fund) call for project ideas
The Seattle Office of Economic Development (OED) and the National Development Council (NDC) are partnering to offer a new Business Community Ownership Fund (BCO Fund) to preserve and strengthen the businesses that make our communities vibrant which are at risk of displacement due to the increased costs of commercial leases in Seattle. The BCO Fund provides Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) business owners the opportunity to invest in partnerships that will lead to long-term control and ownership of their own commercial spaces, thereby lowering tenant costs, increasing business incomes, and fostering economic stability.
Commercial rent in Seattle continues to increase and small businesses owned by BIPOC and immigrant communities are at risk of being displaced from their communities. The BCO Fund aims to reverse this trend, empowering small businesses with long-term control and ownership of their own commercial spaces so they can continue to serve their neighborhoods for decades to come. The program is rooted in the Future of Seattle Economy framework that aims to create ownership opportunities and address barriers for small businesses and individuals to create an economically diverse, just, and resilient city over the long term.
“Commercial rent in Seattle is becoming increasingly unsustainable. Small businesses face skyrocketing operational costs and are being pushed out of their neighborhoods, due to longstanding systemic racism and related economic inequities. OED’s goals are to remove barriers and create meaningful access for BIPOC entrepreneurs to resources and opportunities to build generational wealth and stay rooted and thrive in our neighborhoods,” said Markham McIntyre, Director, Seattle Office of Economic Development.
“The BCO Fund represents another initiative that NDC is proud to support. Now more than ever, it is important that we give businesses the capital they need to continue to serve their established neighborhoods, as well as give them ownership of their commercial space” said Daniel Marsh, NDC President & CEO “We thank JPMorgan Chase for their grant to support our effort and the City of Seattle Office of Economic Development for establishing this impactful program”
The BCO Fund is in its pilot phase and is actively seeking project ideas from community developers, partners, and small business owners. Projects that start construction within the next 12 months and that further community development goals are of primary interest. The BCO Fund expects to support one to three projects annually and is continually seeking ideas from interested businesses. Investment ideas are accepted on a rolling basis.
“Economic opportunity is deeply rooted in access to commercial affordability,” said Vicki Foege, Vice President and Northwest Program Officer of Global Philanthropy at JPMorgan Chase. “Here at JPMorgan Chase, we have a long history of collaborating with local government, civic and nonprofit leaders to drive a wide range of innovative initiatives that advance small businesses’ access to economic opportunity including commercial affordability. Our team is proud of providing funding support to the BCO Fund and believe in the ability of the BCO Fund to support commercial affordability in Seattle neighborhoods.”
Using an LLC structure, the BCO Fund purchases ground-floor real estate in mixed-used buildings in high displacement risk neighborhoods and secures financing for the project. Businesses become part of the LLC that owns the building, thereby securing control and long-term affordability. The stability of occupancy costs allows small businesses to stay in their neighborhood and redirect profits back into the business for further growth. Through the investment vehicle, businesses can enter into financial agreements with the city that set up a payment program where the money they used to spend on rent goes towards equity on the commercial space.
Business owners who partner with the BCO Fund receive the following benefits:
The BCO Fund is looking for affordable commercial projects that meet key community and business objectives, such as integrating ground floor commercial into the neighborhood, providing culturally relevant goods and services, and supporting business sustainability and growth for women, LGBTQ+, and BIPOC business owners. Projects will be prioritized for consideration based on the investment criteria and the project’s stated community benefit.
Businesses interested in partnering can find more information on applying on the OED website:
OED is working to close racial wealth gaps and interrupt displacement through equitable access to capital, commercial affordability and ownership, and culturally relevant business assistance. The BCO Fund aims to keep current small businesses owned by Black, Indigenous, and people of color in Seattle neighborhoods; create a pathway for securing commercial real estate for businesses that have been displaced or unable to establish a business in Seattle due to the rising costs of commercial rents; build business owners’ financial security and economic independence; and increase business income and value by providing owners long-term stability and control.
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