NAACP, companies partner to benefit Black-owned businesses

The NAACP Columbus/Bartholomew branch, in collaboration with Cummins, Inc., First Financial Bank and the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce, has introduced a new program designed to support Black-owned businesses.

Designated as the Bartholomew County Targeted Investment in Minority Entrepreneurs (TIME) program, it will provide resources for Black business owners including personal development opportunities, business development mentoring, and financial resources through grants, microloans and forgivable loans.

Johnnie Edwards, president of NAACP Columbus/Bartholomew Branch, said the organization is excited and gratified to lead the TIME program.

“We have a committed and robust team helping Black-owned businesses bridge the wealth gap in this community,” he said. “Working together on this vision builds relationships and economic longevity for the Black community within Bartholomew County."

Black business owners interested in learning more about the TIME program are invited to a virtual event kick-off at 3 p.m. March 16. During this session, participants will learn more about the TIME program and the application process and have the opportunity to ask questions. To pre-register, which is required, visit www.naacp-3071.org.

Cummins is supporting Black-owned businesses with a $150,000 grant to the TIME program as part of its Cummins Advocating for Racial Equity (CARE) initiative.

Cummins officials launched CARE last July as another step to help undo the systemic discrimination against the Black community in the U.S., company officials said. One of the four identified areas the company wishes to impact is creating empowerment by building Black wealth and income, the company said in a statement.

First Financial Bank is providing $100,000 in microloan funding and has awarded a grant to support administrative fees for the TIME program.

After a brief application process through the local NAACP branch, those entering the program will undergo a diagnostic business assessment conducted by volunteer mentors from the SCORE program to identify and address immediate financial needs. SCORE mentors are available statewide to advise business startups on business plans and financing.

Once financial needs have been addressed, if needed, applicants may create a business and personal development plan to address the specific needs of the business owner, according to program materials.

Partipants will work closely with a TIME program navigator to locate and engage with resources in the community to support development of their business. Some of those resources may include:

  • Indiana Small Business Development Corp., which provides business coaching
  • Velocities for early-stage funding and other tools to help start-ups accelerate innovation-driven enterprises
  • Indiana Procurement Technical Assistance Program, to identify and win government contracts and attain minority and women-owned business certifications
  • United Way of Bartholomew County’s Bridge program, designed to help individuals increase wealth and self-sufficiency through personal skill building.

Participants and navigators will meet monthly with partners, developing a plan over time, organizers said. Additional funding may become available for business-growing capacity, according to the NAACP.

The Columbus Area Chamber Foundation Inc. will administer funding, and participating businesses will be offered a chamber membership at a 50% discount.

"Under the pressure of a pandemic, the inequities facing Black-owned businesses have been magnified," said Cindy Frey, chamber president.

"The Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce is proud to work alongside Cummins and the NAACP Columbus/Bartholomew Branch to address these inequities," she said. "Through this new partnership, we will foster greater business success through funding, mentoring, training and access to other resources," she said.

In addition to supporting the TIME program in Columbus, Cummins is also distributing $3 million to aid Black-owned businesses in Minneapolis, Memphis and Indianapolis.

The Metropolitan Economic Development Association in Minneapolis, River City Capital Investment in Memphis, and the Local Initiatives Support Corp. in partnership with the Indy Black Chamber of Commerce in Indianapolis are also receiving funding along with the Columbus program.

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Black business owners interested in learning more about the TIME program are invited to a virtual event kick-off at 3 p.m. March 16. During this session, participants will learn more about the TIME program and the application process and have the opportunity to ask questions. To pre-register, which is required, visit www.naacp-3071.org.

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Organizations and individuals who would like to support the TIME program by offsetting administrative expenses may contact Johnnie Edwards, president of the NAACP Columbus/Bartholomew Branch, at 812-343-2833 or by emailing [email protected].

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