New grants advance economic mobility, racial equity in Charlotte, North Carolina
Wells Fargo CEO Charlie Scharf announces more than $3.2 million to help nine organizations address critical community needs.
Wells Fargo is delivering more than $3.2 million in grants to address a range of critical community needs across Charlotte, North Carolina.
Johnson C. Smith University and United Way of Central Carolinas each will receive $1 million grants, while Central Piedmont Community College’s Small Business Center will receive a $625,000 Open for Business Fund grant.
Six other nonprofits — Aspire Community Capital, Charlotte is Creative, City Startup Labs, the Latin American Chamber of Commerce Charlotte, Prospera, and the Women’s Business Center of Charlotte — will receive grants of $100,000 each.
Wells Fargo CEO Charlie Scharf announced the $3,225,000 in grants May 5 at a special event in Biddle Hall auditorium on the campus of Johnson C. Smith University, a historically Black college and university, or HBCU, that the company has supported for years through board membership, financing, and other assistance.
“Wells Fargo is being intentional about supporting a more inclusive economic recovery, with a focus on racial and social equity, economic mobility and investments in low- and moderate-income communities. We are pleased to announce these grants for the Charlotte area and will continue to focus on ways we can support positive change.” — Charlie Scharf, Wells Fargo CEO
“While we are seeing signs of economic improvement, we also realize that not all of our communities are benefiting equally in this recovery,” Scharf said of the purpose of the grants.
“That is why Wells Fargo is being intentional about supporting a more inclusive economic recovery, with a focus on racial and social equity, economic mobility, and investments in low- and moderate-income communities. We are pleased to announce these grants for the Charlotte area and will continue to focus on ways we can support positive change.”
The announcements coincided with the return of the Wells Fargo Championship to Charlotte, which was held May 3 – 9, 2021. Canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19, the PGA TOUR event generates an estimated $50 million in economic activity annually and has raised more than $24 million for charitable organizations since its 2003 debut.
The grant to Johnson C. Smith University is the latest in a long history of Wells Fargo support for the HBCU. Regional Banking Executive Michelle Lee and Credit Risk Analytics Officer Christy Bryant currently serve on the university’s Board of Trustees, and Wells Fargo financed the last major upgrade of Biddle Hall auditorium in 2000. Kendall Alley, executive vice president for Wells Fargo, led JCSU’s last capital campaign, which ran from 2010 – 2017 and raised more than $159 million.
“What a great day, not only for Johnson C. Smith, but the Charlotte community,” said Johnson C. Smith University President Clarence Armbrister of the new Wells Fargo support that will fund scholarships, experiential learning in entrepreneurship and small business, and financial health education for students.
“Gifts like this will change that dynamic and provide additional resources for students majoring in business or who have aspirations to be entrepreneurs so they are prepared to excel in the workplace.” — Clarence Armbrister, president of Johnson C. Smith University
“I am a witness daily to the transformation that occurs in students who have the opportunity to complete their education at JCSU,” Armbrister said. “It is heartbreaking when access to higher education is denied to students who have the academic ability and desire, but lack the financial means to pursue a college degree.
“Gifts like this will change that dynamic and provide additional resources for students majoring in business or who have aspirations to be entrepreneurs so they are prepared to excel in the workplace.”
Rep. Alma Adams, D-N.C., who co-chairs the Congressional Bipartisan Historically Black Colleges and Universities Caucus, joined Scharf, Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, and other nonprofit and community leaders for the grant announcement.
The audience included executives from Self-Help Credit Union and M&F Bank. M&F Bank is a Black-owned Minority Depository Institution among those benefiting from up to $50 million in capital Wells Fargo has pledged to invest to help Black communities succeed financially. Self-Help Credit Union, a Community Development Financial Institution, received an Open for Business Fund grant to support its work providing responsible financial services to people of color, women, rural residents, and low-wealth families and communities.
Applauding Wells Fargo’s support for JCSU and other HBCUs and the communities they serve, Adams said, “To get a good education, get a good job, start a good business, and serve my community — that is the dream that millions of mothers have for their children. It’s the dream our HBCUs like Johnson C. Smith have had for well over a century for so many students.
“It does my heart good to see corporate citizens lend their substantial financial support to our nonprofit organizations who fight for equity and justice and economic mobility for disenfranchised communities.”
United Way of Central Carolinas CEO and President Laura Clark said the $1 million grant will not only aid the Unite Charlotte and United Neighborhoods efforts to bring racial healing and address economic development inequity, but also the nearly 100 charities working to help Charlotte through the pandemic.
“The impact of getting this gift right now is tremendous. We’ve been really hard hit by COVID and the nonprofit sector has stepped up for almost 15 months to serve those in need." — Laura Clark, president and CEO of United Way Central Carolinas
“The impact of getting this gift right now is tremendous,” Clark said. “We’ve been really hard hit by COVID and the nonprofit sector has stepped up for almost 15 months to serve those in need.
“This gift from Wells Fargo is going to allow us to support them and help them keep the lights on so they can deliver on their mission.”
Prospera’s North Carolina Vice President Jose Alvarez said Wells Fargo’s grant will allow the nonprofit to continue helping Hispanic-owned businesses thrive by breaking down language and other cultural barriers with bilingual training and other consulting support.
Underscoring the need for the assistance, he said, is that Charlotte is home to the state’s largest and fastest-growing number of Hispanic entrepreneurs, and that North Carolina itself experienced the third-largest growth (54%) of Hispanic-owned businesses between 2012 and 2017.
“Wells Fargo has been a great supporter of our mission in North Carolina since we expanded to the state four years ago,” he said. “By helping this fast-growing demographic start and grow their businesses with the right culturally sensitive support, their chances of succeeding will dramatically increase.”
New Open for Business Fund technical assistance
With its Open for Business Fund grant, Central Piedmont Community College President Kandi Deitemeyer said its Small Business Center will be the first in North Carolina to provide bookkeeping, legal advice, human resources support, virtual training, and other services to existing and future businesses, particularly racially and ethnically diverse and women-owned small businesses.
The grant will help the Small Business Center create a “MinorityGovConHub” (minority government contract hub) to help these businesses win more government contracts, including helping more get the Historically Underutilized Business, or HUB, certification. Deitemeyer said HUB certification increases a small businesses’ visibility when trying to secure government contracts and can often increase the chance of securing government contracts.
Deitemeyer noted that there are currently about 1,042 minority-owned and HUB-certified small businesses in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.
“Using this generous and insightful grant, the Central Piedmont Small Business Center will provide targeted technical assistance in government contracting to minority-owned small businesses and help address the disparities in government contracting experienced by minority small businesses,” she said. “The Open for Business technical assistance grant is yet another example of Wells Fargo at work in the Charlotte community, seeking to increase opportunities for all.”
If you are a small business owner seeking support, visit the Small Business Resource Center or explore this list of Open for Business Fund (PDF) grant recipients to find nonprofits helping small businesses.