REDCO awarded $1 million to continue its Resource Partner Enhancement Program

The Rochester Economic Development Corporation (REDCO) has been awarded a $1 million Small Business Administration grant to continue to improve Rochester’s entrepreneurial ecosystem through its innovative Resource Partner Enhancement Program (RPEP).

RPEP is a two-year peer learning cohort program designed to provide developmental support and collaboration opportunities that increase the cultural relevance of services and resources offered by local entrepreneur support organizations (ESOs). The program leverages public investment and a team of organizational coaches to build and maintain a cooperative network of support services for the region’s diverse small business community.

Cohort two is scheduled to launch during the winter of 2021 and will include Rochester Institute of Technology’s Center for Urban Entrepreneurship, Venture Jobs Foundation, Consumer Credit Counseling Services of Rochester and the Business Insight Center at the Rochester Public Library among its participating organizations. Each organization will be assigned an organizational coach who will assist with the development of an evidence-informed enhancement plan, piloting new and improved programs and resources. They also will attend an annual convening, participate in an Undoing Racism Workshop and collaborate with their peers during monthly meetings to develop cohort-wide enhancements.

“I’ve never seen this before. This is the beginning of a new era of collaboration between our partners in service to our local entrepreneur community, and ultimately their families,” said Baye Muhammad, CEO of REDCO.

Cohort one launched in November 2020 with $1.5 million in support from Empire State Development as part of REDCO’s Revitalize Rochester Fund. Cohort one participating organizations include Urban League of Rochester, Ibero-American Action League, the Rochester Commissary, JustCause, Walker’s Legacy Foundation and Greater Works Collaborative.

“I am overjoyed by the SBA’s transformational investment in our second cohort of the Resource Partner Enhancement Program,” said Lomax Campbell, president and CEO of Third Eye Network. “Our first cohort has been able to accelerate the evolution of their organizations and increase the relevance of their offerings for our diverse small business program community in the first year of the program.”

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Revitalize Rochester Fund applications now open

Mayor Lovely Warren was joined Tuesday by Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul and leaders of the Rochester Economic Development Corp. (REDCO) to announce the opening of the application period for entrepreneurs to join a partnership to expand business opportunities in the city’s Commercial Corridors through the $13 million Revitalize Rochester Fund.

“Rochester’s commercial corridors are very fertile ground for bold and innovative business ideas,” Warren said. “Each city neighborhood has its own unique and special character, and our widely diverse commercial corridors represent the centers of commerce and vibrancy for thousands of residents and visitors. Thanks to the vision of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the leadership of REDCO, the Revitalize Rochester Fund gives us a means to unlock the imagination of our entrepreneurs to help us create more jobs, safer and more vibrant neighborhoods and better educational opportunities.”

Cuomo first announced the creation of the fund in his 2019 State of the State Address. REDCO will award financing to entrepreneurs who present a viable model to establish a business in a city commercial corridor that is struggling with poverty and disinvestment. In addition to financing for working capital, the fund will provide emerging entrepreneurs with consultation services and the latest analysis of market conditions in particular neighborhoods.

“We are proud of our long history of fostering public and private collaborations in Rochester,” said REDCO CEO Bayé Muhammad. “Thanks to the leadership and support of Gov. Cuomo and Mayor Warren, REDCO can be even more effective at bringing together our economic development partners and the community to support local businesses and provide growth opportunities along our commercial corridors.”

The RRF emerged from a $10 million Empire State Development Upstate Revitalization grant, which enabled an additional $3.1 million in loans from private-sector lenders, including the Greater Rochester Housing Partnership, Upstate National, M&T Bank, Canandaigua National Bank, Five Star Bank, Genesee Regional Bank, Citizens Commercial Bank and Key Bank.

The opening of the application period follows the completion of the city’s 2019 Commercial Corridor Study and coincides with an ongoing neighborhood shopping survey called Rochester TREND. The combination of data from the reports and targeted investments will strengthen the relationship between commercial corridors, commuters and surrounding neighborhoods.

“There’s nothing more powerful than a community that believes in itself, and the Rochester Revitalization Fund is helping to transform Rochester’s neighborhoods block-by-block,” Hochul said. “This fund is giving entrepreneurs an opportunity to unlock their potential and lead the way for Rochester and New York State to build back better, smarter and more resilient for a post-pandemic future.”

The RRF comprises the following areas:

• Building Renovation and Streetscape grants will provide funding for facade and building renovations to support existing and new neighborhood businesses and building owners who have limited equity.
• Catalytic Predevelopment Loans will provide flexible, low-interest predevelopment loans to early-stage real estate development projects that are focused on the revitalization of key commercial properties in targeted neighborhood corridors. Funds are to be used for developments that will have high impact, stimulate economic growth and create vibrant commercial areas in low- to moderate-income neighborhoods.
• The Urban Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Program consists of $1.5 million to support organizations that provide training, technical assistance and mentorship to entrepreneurs and small-business owners.
• The Worker Cooperative Business Revolving Loan Program consists of approximately $1.5 million to support the development of the Worker Cooperative business models, which provide employees with an opportunity share ownership of businesses. These funds can be used in targeted neighborhoods to start worker cooperatives or convert an existing business to the model.

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Public Market receives REDCO assistance

The city of Rochester Public Market has received a $50,000 grant from the Rochester Economic Development Organization. The grant is aimed at assisting vendors who have been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Throughout the pandemic, the Public Market has been deemed an essential business and continues to provide much-needed access to fresh, affordable produce and other foods to area residents, officials said. But while the market has been open, there has been a 40 to 60 percent decline in the number of shoppers.

Due to COVID-19 regulations, non-essential vendors were unable to operate their businesses for several months and prepared-food vendors were limited to providing takeout orders only.

Additionally, the popular Flower City Days at the Market horticultural sales were canceled, and the start of the spring Community Garage Sales event series was delayed. These rapid and unexpected changes contributed to plummeting vendor and market revenue, officials said.

To provide relief for vendors, Mayor Lovely Warren and the staff at the Public Market worked with REDCO to identify ways to provide direct assistance to the numerous small businesses and entrepreneurs who regularly vend at the market. At the mayor’s direction, reduced vending fees for the months of April and May already had been instituted. However, unless additional funding could be identified, the continuance of the reduced vendor rates would not be possible without severely impacting the finances of both the market and the city. The REDCO grant enables the market to continue its relief to vendors throughout the remainder of the summer.

“This grant represents a win/win for the market and REDCO and we are proud to help support the over 160 small businesses that comprise the market’s license holders,” said REDCO CEO Baye Muhammad.

Rochester Economic Development Corporation (REDCO) is a not-for-profit development corporation that was established in 1983 and is dedicated to stimulating and increasing business investment in the city of Rochester. REDCO’s purpose is the creation and retention of jobs, as well as providing viable commercial services for city residents.

The market remains open with regular hours: Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Saturdays from 5 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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REDCO reorganizes, names new CEO

Baye Muhammad, Rochester’s commissioner of neighborhood and business development, has been named to lead the Rochester Economic Development Corp., or REDCO, while a longtime city employee, Gary Kirkmire, has been tapped to replace him.

Muhammad will serve in the newly created position of CEO at REDCO. The not-for-profit development corporation was established in 1983 to stimulate and increase business investment in the city to create and retain jobs and provide commercial services. Mayor Lovely Warren, who announced the appointments Monday, serves as board chairwoman. “These appointments reflect the actions of a city that is ready to manage its growth,” Warren said in a statement. “Under this new structure, REDCO will become the leading agency to promote Rochester on the national and international stage so job creators across the world are fully aware of the opportunities our city has to offer. The beauty and vitality of Rochester have been a well-kept secret for far too long. The time has come to tell our story to the world.”

The city’s Neighborhood and Business Development department, or NBD, has one of the most expansive missions within city government, officials noted, including code enforcement, land-use management, the regulation of licensed trades, housing development, business assistance and the administration of more than $12 million in federal grant funding.

Muhammad served as commissioner of NBD since 2015. Accomplishments under his term include the drafting of Rochester 2034, the city’s first comprehensive plan since 1999; a departmental reorganization to increase the focus on customer service and long-range planning; the development of new real estate created by the Inner Loop East and Midtown projects, among other things.

“I continue to be grateful for the many opportunities Mayor Warren has provided me to spend each day improving the quality of life in Rochester,” Muhammad said. “Working with the dedicated men and women of NBD has been the highlight of my professional career. After years of managing the sweeping mission of this department, I am excited to focus my attention on my true passion of job creation by introducing Rochester to new employers.”

Kirkmire  has been a city employee for 34 years. Under his watch, NBD developed a nationally recognized rental inspection program, a lead-poisoning prevention program that has produced an 85 percent reduction of child lead poisoning and a revamped hiring process for code enforcement officers.

“I am excited to work with Mayor Warren as the commissioner of NBD and helping her advance her important goals of job creation and neighborhood vitality,” Kirkmire said. “I am also grateful to Baye Muhammad for the guidance and valuable counsel he has given me over the years. I intend to follow his successful example of innovation and improvement.”

In addition to REDCO, Rochester is represented in economic development by the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council, one of 10 such REDCs in New York State, and Greater Rochester Enterprise Inc.

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
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