On March 31, Mayor Ed Murray announced $1.6 million in investments to spur small business development in Seattle neighborhoods. $102,000 of that total was awarded to YCC partner, the Central Area Collaborative. The announcement took place at a celebration at Taste of the Caribbean, a restaurant serving up Jerk Chicken Wings and other Jamaican treats to an enthusiastic crowd of 150 people.

Against the backdrop of a small stage where a marimba band provided lively music, Brian Surratt, Director of the Office of Economic Development talked about the importance of small businesses in Seattle. “Neighborhood business districts are the economic engines of our city,” he said. “The uniqueness of each neighborhood is one of the reasons people love to live here.”. The Only in Seattle initiative helps foster neighborhood businesses by supporting community and community leadership.

Leaders from several Central Area community organizations were present at the event, includng Evelyn Thomas Allen, Convener, Black Community Impact Alliance; K. Wyking Garrett, Africatown-Central District Preservation & Development Association; Heyward Watson, Community Advocate; DeCharlene Williams, business owner and president of the Central Area Chamber of Commerce and Dennis Comer, a Central Area resident and a business owner representing the Central Area Land Use Review Committee. Other Central Area community leaders involved in this project include Leon Garnett, COO of Centerstone, Lois Martin, a business owner and member of the 23rd Ave ACT Group, and Sheley Secrest, a resident and NAACP Volunteer.

Heyward Watson spoke about the immediate goals of the Central Area Collaborative, which include:

  • Aligning ongoing commercial development in the Central Area with community input,
  • Establishing, retaining and growing independent, micro- and small businesses in the Central Area,

The group will initially focus on four projects, the first of which will be to support effective community engagement to ensure that new development adds to community character and meets local needs.

Next the group will conduct a needs assessment of independent, micro and small businesses in the Central Area to identify their technical assistance needs.

They will also examine the feasibility of instituting a City tax relief program, such as a tax credit or tax exemption, to foster independent, micro and small businesses in the Central Area.

Finally, the group plans to connect Central Area micro- and small businesses to local and web-based guidance on marketing, strategic planning, tax advice, funding opportunities and other technical assistance needs.

Several other neighborhood organizations received grants as well.

Photo Credit: Seattle Office of Economic Development. The people pictured above include Left to Right:  Wyking Garrett, Dennis Comer, DeCharlene Williams, Evelyn Allen. Heyward Watson (Speaking)