NewTown Macon To Increase Black And Women-Owned Businesses In Macon With Knight Foundation Support

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Local nonprofit NewTown Macon intends to provide loans and training for women and members of the Black community to start businesses and create jobs.

To expand Black and women-owned business in Macon’s urban core, NewTown Macon will distribute loans and provide entrepreneurial training to women and communities of color to start more local ventures thanks to a $1.5 million investment from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Knight has long supported the renewal of Macon’s urban core through economic development, revitalizing downtown and helping establish community centered public spaces.

Knight Foundation’s latest commitment will advance NewTown Macon’s work:

  • $500,000 – To support the start-up of NewTown Loans, a recently certified Community Development Financial Institution, which will give women and Black entrepreneurs access to loans, lines of credit, and investment opportunities to start new businesses and to create more jobs. Knight’s commitment supports start-up costs for NewTown Loans and for staff members who will offer consulting to loan applicants.
  • $1M – To contribute to NewTown Macon’s Godsey Initiatives Fund, a program that helps coach individuals looking to start a business and provides funding after the entrepreneurial training has been completed. NewTown Macon has been offering loans that are typically not available from traditional lenders.

“This latest investment from Knight builds on a consistent strategy that has inspired NewTown to amplify our successful revitalization efforts beyond what we initially dreamed possible,” said Josh Rogers, president and CEO of NewTown Macon. “Through Knight’s support, we’ve been able to equip our staff with the knowledge and resources to expand our lending to make a greater impact in the community, building sustainable relationships with our local entrepreneurs and developers.”

A total of 160 local businesses — shops and restaurants — call downtown Macon home. But only 18% of those businesses are owned by Black entrepreneurs, despite Black residents making up 54% of Macon’s population.

Knight’s current investment seeks to turn the tide by supporting the Macon Action Plan 2.0. The plan cites this disparity and includes strategies to build a more inclusive Macon, such as growing the number of Black-owned businesses in downtown.

“Saving downtown Macon was no small miracle, but developing a truly integrated downtown where business and building ownership is shared by women and people of color will be an even bigger success,” said Bethany Rogers, executive director of NewTown Loans. “Forming a CDFI will remove obstacles for all sorts of entrepreneurs and developers to start businesses, invest in property downtown, boost diversity and build generational wealth.”

In 2017, Knight made an initial investment of $500,000 in the Godsey Initiatives Fund, which allowed NewTown Macon to start laying the groundwork for building an equitable lending framework for communities that had been historically excluded in Macon.

“Knight Foundation sees this latest investment driving our strategy for Macon,” said Lynn Murphey, Knight’s Macon program director. “One of the most special things about downtown Macon’s renaissance has been that local people create these projects and local people benefit from them. This investment will ensure we’re equipped to continue supporting Maconites inclusively.”

Last month, the Macon-Bibb County Commission approved $1.6 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to NewTown Macon and the Historic Macon Foundation to increase affordable housing by building new rental units and empower local residents to take part in renovating existing ones. Knight Foundation matched these funds dollar for dollar, totaling $3.2 million in support for these organizations.

NewTown’s services are available to all residents in Macon-Bibb County, though projects must be located in Macon’s urban core. To get started, applicants need to fill out an intake form at www.newtownmacon.com/loans. NewTown will schedule a time to meet with clients and build a custom approach to help applicants complete a successful plan, apply for funding and leverage their financing to grow a business or develop real estate.