First, a global pandemic led to a near shutdown of the economy, dealing a blow to small businesses everywhere.
Then, street protests over police brutality brought tear gas, rubber bullets, broken windows, vandalism, and fires back to Over-the-Rhine, a neighborhood that had seen a remarkable renaissance since similar unrest in 2001.
The two blows will make support from a new small-business relief fund all the more important.
The Over-the-Rhine Chamber of Commerce has created the OTR Chamber's Small Business Fund to provide recovery support for that neighborhood’s small businesses.
The goal is to raise $500,000 to provide grants up to $20,000 to help cover reopening costs for small businesses in OTR and in neighboring Pendleton.
The fund is only $125,000 away from its goal. Three organizations leading its launch have made significant donations: Main Street Ventures and Urban Sites (and Urban Sites’ related family foundations) each contributed $100,000; Sycamore Capital has committed $50,000.
“The OTR neighborhood catalyzed the rebirth of our great city and our contribution reinforces the gravity in maintaining what was built,” says Greg Olson, CEO of Urban Sites.
The fund will not only provide financial support,but will include access to technical assistance and educational services, says Kelly Adamson, OTR Chamber executive director.
Grantees will receive a one-year membership to the Economic and Community Development Institute, a certified community development corporation that provides access to technical assistance and small-business development services through its Small Business Administration-funded Women’s Business Center, which operates out of Union Hall in OTR.
“OTR’s small businesses have been through months of loss and hardship,” Adamson says. “This past weekend’s demonstrations came as local businesses were just beginning the recovery process, which is heartbreaking. However, the spirit of the owners, residents and patrons remains incredibly strong. OTR's small business district will be able to reopen and rebuild with the help of the people in the Cincinnati community who share our love for the vibrant, diverse, and inclusive community that is Over-the-Rhine.”
The Chamber is also partnering with the OTR-based Cincinnati Development Fund to administer the program.
The Main Street Ventures commitment is a $100,000 matching grant, which the OTR Chamber is leveraging to kick-off a crowdfunding campaign called “OTR Back on the Rise.” The campaign goal is to match 100 percent of Main Street Venture’s funds, with donations of $1,000 from 100 individuals, who will be recognized as “OTR Backers.”
The Chamber and neighborhood developer 3CDC will recognize each individual or company who contributes $1,000 through a future community project within the neighborhood’s small-business district.
“We will assist in any way we can to make sure the hard-fought progress we have made is not lost,” says Tony Alexander, executive director of Main Street Ventures.
Companies and individuals interested in donating to the fund can do so here.