October 15th Virtual Transform Westside Summit: PNC and Its Program-Related Investment on the Westside

Westside Future Fund’s October 15th Virtual Transform Westside Summit featured special guests to discuss the positive impacts of PNC’s Program-Related Investment on the Historic Westside: Courtney I. Smith, Senior Vice President of Community Development Market, PNC BankPaul Wilson, Jr., VP of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs; and Keitra Bates, Founder of Marddy’s

Ebony Ford, WFF Cohost; John Ahmann, WFF President & CEO

John Ahmann, WFF President & CEO, and Ebony Ford, WFF Cohost, opened the show with warm greetings to viewers and important community updates. Sticking with theme of pooling resources for positive community impacts offered by devotion speaker Zachary Wallace, Founder & CEO of Local Green Atlanta, Ahmann had this to say:

Oftentimes, what is needed is in the room and you have to look around to really try and see it.”

Ahmann went on to moderate the featured panel discussion where he shared how critical PNC’s partnership with WFF has been in helping offer Historic Westside entrepreneurs Program-Related Investments (PRIs) which provide access to capital with favorable terms and low interest rates.

Courtney I. Smith, SVP of Community Development Market at PNC Bank

Courtney I. Smith, SVP of Community Development Market at PNC Bank, added highlights from the Philly-based company’s work to support affordable housing, community development, and economic development in the Atlanta market for more than a decade.

We provide investments and grants to various non-profits within the community to help sustain and make low-income areas revitalized and vibrant again,” said Smith.

In June 2020, PNC announced a $1 Billion commitment to help end systemic racism and support economic empowerment of Black Americans and low- and moderate-income communities. Part of the mission means helping entrepreneurs to graduate their businesses to a phase of growth where they can access more traditional funding methods while continuing to scale.

Paul Wilson, Jr., VP of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs

A black child in Atlanta born in poverty has less than a 4% chance of actually making it to the middle class,” said Wilson.

Paul Wilson, Jr., VP of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs, offered valuable info about RICE’s Big IDEAS (Inspire, Develop, Execute, Accelerate, and Scale) curriculum helping Black entrepreneurs in Atlanta launch and grow their businesses. The program is a testament to RICE’s commitment to help close the racial wealth gap in Atlanta through empowering Black creators. Wilson shared details on how RICE will continue to expand its impact on Black Atlanta thanks to a $5 Million pledge from the Ressler Gurtz Family Foundation. Donate to RICE here.

Keitra Bates, Founder of Marddy’s

Keitra Bates, Founder of Marddy’s, emphasized the need for equity in access to capital for Black business owners. Connecting the centuries long legacy of slavery and discrimination against Black Americans to present day inequities, Bates noted the disparities in the amount of startup capital entrepreneurs can receive from family members. White startups have access to up to $100,000 from family on average. For Black entrepreneurs, that number is only $11,000. Bates recalled how rapid changes happening on the Historic Westside “without a lot of input from the residents” motivated her to start Marddy’s in what was once Leila’s Dinette, a pillar in the community during the Civil Rights Movement. Speaking more to PNC’s partnership with WFF to offer low interest loans to local businesses, she posited:

If you look at history, why on earth would the people who are in most need have the highest interest rate? It is a flawed, flawed, flawed system that needs to be disrupted.”

Donate to Marddy’s here.