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County Executive's Office

Dane County Partners with Urban League Effort to Create South Side Economic Development Hub, Encourage Black Business Start-Ups

July 09, 2020
Ariana Vruwink, 608-267-8823
County Executive

Today, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi joined Ruben L. Anthony Jr., President and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Madison, to announce that $100,000 in county funds will go to the Urban League for planning assistance to create an economic development hub for the South Park Street corridor and support minority-owned businesses. The project will be modeled after the Sherman Phoenix project in Milwaukee, an entrepreneurial hub in the Sherman Park neighborhood providing high-quality commercial space and support for small businesses.

“We are excited to partner with the Urban League of Greater Madison in this effort to locate a space where the talent and potential of entrepreneurs can flourish,” said Dane County Executive Joe Parisi. “Having the Urban League develop a space like this will give entrepreneurs of color in Dane County a place to grow, find community, and use as a vehicle to carry out their goals.”

The Sherman Phoenix project serves as an entrepreneurial incubator for small businesses and helps develop businesses created by people of color. Funded by a mix of public and private dollars, Sherman Phoenix has become a community hub—housing a mix of retail, health and wellness, beauty, and art-based small businesses. It also has a food hall showcasing numerous different vendors who share kitchen space. Entrepreneurs who are part of Sherman Phoenix receive mentorship and coaching as they grow their business. The model is one that Dane County and the Urban League hope to duplicate for the south side of Madison.

“Black businesses need a nurturing space that allows for start-up, maintenance and expansion,” said Ruben L. Anthony Jr., President and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Madison. “These funds will help the community begin to formally engage community stakeholders and develop a plan for how this innovative economic development opportunity might be advanced. Thanks to County Executive Parisi for this partnership.”

Under the contract with Dane County, the Urban League will create a one-year project position. This individual will provide stakeholder engagement around various planning processes related to the facility, conduct a site search, and develop the facility’s operational structure, financial modeling, and business plan. Outreach to and selection of prospective tenants for the facility will also be conducted.

Much like Sherman Phoenix, goals of the future economic development hub will be to support entrepreneurship, whether it be through mentorship or coaching, and support entrepreneurs of color to help them grow their businesses, generate jobs, and support the local economy. Through this effort, Dane County and the Urban League want to build community wealth by engaging neighborhood partners, supporting small businesses, and demonstrating that socially just and culturally rich projects can be successful in disinvested communities.

The Urban League of Greater Madison’s $100,000 contract will begin on August 17, 2020. A resolution to approve the contract will be introduced at tonight’s Dane County Board meeting.