Metro West offers assistance to neighborhood businesses
by Jack Barnes
(Plain Press, November 2020) Metro West Community Development Organization has been facilitating the financial stability of many small businesses in the Stockyard neighborhood, Clark-Fulton, and Brooklyn Centre in the last few months as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The CDC’s Small Business Assistance Program has been able to provide rent and mortgage assistance to small businesses who qualify, with funding provided by Cleveland Development Advisors, an affiliate of the Greater Cleveland Partnership. According to Metro West Director of Economic Development and Marketing Kristyn Zollos, almost 30 local businesses were able to access $1,500 per month for two months’ worth of rent or mortgage payments through the program.
“It doesn’t sound like much, but for businesses, rent and mortgage is one of the larger financial burdens,” Zollos says. “And right now, there’s the additional stress of making sure your business is operating safely and you’re having to buy PPE equipment and all these additional measures… we were just so glad that we were able to provide that for our businesses.”
Strike Force TaeKwon Do owner Jose Cedeno lost 60 percent of his students because of the pandemic. “So, for me it’s been a blessing,” he says. “I don’t know what I would have done if I didn’t have them, but it really was a blessing to not expect that and have it come up.”
Businesses that have benefitted from the Small Business Assistance program necessarily had 20 or fewer employees, and most that met this criterion qualified. Because W. 25th, Clark, and Fulton comprise the Metro West area’s main commercial districts, the Clark-Fulton neighborhood was probably the greatest beneficiary of the program. Perhaps in light of national conversations about economic disparities across racial lines and their exacerbation by the pandemic, Zollos was eager to stress the diversity of the small business owners that took advantage of the program. Over 50% of the businesses funded were women-owned, two thirds were minority owned, and over one third were owned by women of color.
The success of the Small Business Assistance program was due in part to the existing strength of the community. “I will say a lot of this program was marketed through word of mouth,” Zollos described. “One salon would receive an email from me, and they would tell their neighbor.”
Jose Cedeno was eager to mention this as well. “Whatever they send me through Facebook, or Gmail, I always share it on my personal page, and I tell other people I know who own businesses. They [Metro West] might be able to help you out or guide you in the right direction.”
In fact, word spread so quickly that much of the money is already used up, and while the program continues on, the funding is very limited.
While many of the businesses Metro West reached out to did have to lay off employees, the funded businesses had over 100 employees in total, many of whom both live and work in the community. “But at least they’re able to operate their business[es] and they don’t have to fear closing down and shutting their doors in the next few months,” says Zollos. “These business owners rely on this income for their families.”
Finally, the Director of Economic Development and Marketing stressed the need to support these local businesses. She can be contacted at KZollos@metrowestcle.org.