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Four Local Nonprofits Partner on New Opportunity Center




Press Release

Four South Carolina based charitable organizations have announced their partnership in creating and operating a new concept for nonprofit led economic development. This innovative concept will be called The Opportunity Center.

The four nonprofit partner agencies have combined experience of 75 years working in the community’s economic development field.  The Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation, Increasing H.O.P.E., Homes of Hope, and the S.C. Association for Community Economic Development will be using the Opportunity Center not only as their headquarters, but as a training center and a business incubator.

A press conference and ground breaking will take place on January 25th at 11 am. The facility is located at 8570 Rivers Avenue in North Charleston. Officials from the involved charitable organizations, as well as other dignitaries will be on hand to answer questions and help demonstrate the impact the facility will have on the region. This will include more information about the addition of the Women’s Business Center and the recently announced involvement of the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Buoyed by a $2.7 million grant awarded from the Economic Development Administration (EDA) to Homes of Hope, Inc. this past May, the former 31,250 square-foot furniture store in North Charleston is undergoing the transformation into The Opportunity Center. In addition to the $2.7 million EDA grant, the Coastal Community Foundation (CCF) has provided an $800,000 equity investment from CCF’s Place-Based Impact Investing fund. Other partners to date include Wells Fargo and Truist Bank, who each invested $100,000. The group is currently working on securing additional investments and donations of $1 million to fully complete the project.

“Economic development isn’t just for for-profit institutions,” said Jennie Stephens, CEO of the Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation, a Charleston-based nonprofit that helps families and individuals protect their inherited land.  “The Opportunity Center will be a unique collaborative place impacting low-wealth communities of the Tri-County and surrounding areas.  This innovative space will provide job training, a business incubator and entrepreneurial shared space – as well as a Women’s Business Center, while maintaining offices of local non-profits actively working in the community economic development sector.”

The unique and critical component of The Opportunity Center are the business incubator program known as the Business Success Center and the Women’s Business Center.  Defined as an entrepreneurial ecosystem builders, these programs will focus on helping small business owners and entrepreneurs establish, grow, and sustain their operations—especially for communities of color and women.  Historically, entrepreneurs of color and women have faced challenges establishing, growing, and sustaining their enterprises for a variety of reasons, including lack of access to affordable capital, accessing key markets, navigating regulations, and accessing networks that have historically helped white-owned businesses to prosper. At the end of 2019, just 11.9% of persons of color in South Carolina owned a business compared to 20% of the white population.

Compounding the issue is the fact that COVID19 has caused record-setting numbers of small businesses to close, with many studies pointing to a disproportionate number of those businesses being owned by people of color. A recent study cited by the Washington Post (May 25, 2020) indicated that “African American Business owners plummeted by 40% as coronavirus shut down the economy…a much steeper drop than any other ethnic group.”

This business incubator collaborative will provide flexible space for entrepreneurs, solopreneurs and remote employees.  Upon its completion, the facility is expected to help create 45 jobs and attract nearly $4 million in private investment.

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