ATLANTA—Mayor Andre Dickens joined Wells Fargo leadership in announcing a $20 million donation to help Atlanta small business owners own more of their businesses’ assets—including property and equipment—to enable physical upgrades to their facilities. The United Way of Greater Atlanta—in collaboration with Invest Atlanta—will distribute the funding as a mix of grants and loans in the city, with a focus on Black-owned and other diverse-owned businesses.
“This Wells Fargo grant program gives small business owners the opportunity to grow and expand by owning more of their own assets—which can be a game changer for the financial health of any business,” said Mayor Andre Dickens. “As a former small business owner, I understand the vital role of small businesses in Atlanta’s economy and community, and we are excited to announce this program in the first few weeks of our new administration.”
The donation comes from Wells Fargo’s Open for Business Fund—a roughly $420 million fund the company created in July of 2020 to help small businesses stay open during the COVID-19 pandemic. The fund has focused on racially and ethnically diverse small businesses, which have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. The fund was created from the gross processing fees Wells Fargo made from administering Paycheck Protection Program loans in 2020. Wells Fargo has collaborated with Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and local nonprofits across the nation to distribute funding.
“Helping small businesses persevere through the pandemic has been a major focus of ours for the past two years,” said Charlie Scharf, Wells Fargo’s CEO. “As a company, we have a commitment to make the communities where we operate stronger, and to do it at a very local level. Making a large donation in Atlanta — one of the largest donations we’ve made from the Open for Business Fund — was important to us. We know it will make a difference for small business owners here.”
United Way of Greater Atlanta, with expertise from Invest Atlanta, will administer the $20 million donation around four initiatives:
- Small Business Loan Fund — Low-cost loans, capped at an interest rate of 3%, are designated to help small businesses grow ownership of tangible assets.
- Asset Building Assistance — Working with nonprofit organizations, including in south and west Atlanta, this effort will enlist experts to craft asset-building strategies for roughly 200 small businesses, such as moving from renting or leasing commercial space to owning it.
- Façade Improvement Grants — Grants of up to $50,000 for exterior improvements for small businesses that contribute a 20% match to their project.
- Commercial Ownership Growth — Capital to help small business owners facing rising rental costs, including down payment assistance grants of up to $200,000 to purchase commercial real estate.
“With help from Wells Fargo’s Open for Business Fund, I opened a new space in downtown Atlanta,” said Rahel TafarI, a native of Ethiopia who owns Grant Park Coffeehouse and who benefited from an earlier Open for Business Fund grantee, Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs. “I have stability now, and we are looking to soon open another coffee shop and Ethiopian restaurant that I will own near Grant Park. Diverse-owned businesses like mine bring culture to where people want to work and live.”
“As a member of the House Financial Services Committee I’ve worked to help small businesses in the Fifth District Build Back Better,” said Congresswoman Nikema Williams. “I want to thank Wells Fargo for this investment in Atlanta-area small businesses and recognizing that businesses owned by Black and brown people have been disproportionately hurt during the pandemic. That Wells Fargo selected the Fifth District for this substantial investment shows the importance of the Fifth District’s small businesses and the 182,200 people they employ.”
“We are gratified to be selected for Wells Fargo’s Open for Business Fund program,” said Milton J. Little Jr., president and CEO of United Way of Greater Atlanta. “The Open for Business Fund aligns directly to United Way’s Economic Stability investment priority area, which is focused on ensuring that everyone, regardless of race, identity, or circumstances, has the opportunity to convert increased income to wealth.”
Atlanta small business owners interested in learning more about the program can find information here.
Open for Business Fund grantees are estimated to reach more than 152,000 small business owners nationally and will help entrepreneurs maintain more than 255,000 jobs. Roughly 85% of small business served by grantees are Black, African American, Hispanic, Asian American, and Native American small business owners. Wells Fargo also offers a Small Business Resource Center where entrepreneurs can explore business planning, financing considerations, and practical advice.
The Open for Business Fund grant builds on the bank’s ongoing support of advancing economic opportunity for small businesses in Atlanta, including recent collaborations with organizations such as ACE, Morehouse College, and Operation Hope. Donations to these entities support programs that inspire and sustain future entrepreneurs.
Additional information may be found at www.wellsfargo.com