GARY | A new program announced Thursday is geared to provide opportunities for economic development and help build Gary “one small business at a time.”
The Urban Entrepreneur Initiative was conceived by Peter Justen, CEO of Washington, D.C.-based Five Plus, and Gary native Deardra Campbell, managing principal of The Green-Campbell Group in Atlanta, Ga.
Their shared philosophy of “rebuilding America one small business at a time” culminated in donating their services to Gary entrepreneurs.
The Green-Campbell Group is an economic development consultant with expertise in microenterprise development and personal financial literacy, targeted to socially or economically disadvantaged communities.
Five Plus tracks financial information for small businesses and translates it to easy to understand charts and graphs.
Justen said the initiative is based on the belief small businesses need a break and need help.
“It’s built for the nonfinancial guy running the coffee or pizza shop,” he said. “It puts accounting into English.”
Five Plus is donating $250,000 of its software to 1,000 licenses of Gary entrepreneurs, which Green-Campbell will donate its small business training to. There is no cost to business owners using the services.
“Small business are the backbone of the U.S. economy,” Campbell said. "They are also responsible for much of the innovation in the U.S. When we develop them, incubate them, and give existing businesses resources. They have the capacity to not only revitalize communities but also entire cities. It’s very important especially in a city like Gary where the economy has suffered because of steep declines in the manufacturing sector.”
Training will begin Oct. 12 at space the city is donating at the City Hall Annex building at 839 Broadway. The Gary Economic Development Corp., Gary Chamber of Commerce, Accion and the Northwest Indiana Small Business Development Center are also participating.
Justen said the Urban Entrepreneur Initiative is debuting in Gary because the city is “somebody we can get behind and work with.”
“It takes a partnership to make this stuff work,” he said. “You have to have a coordinated effort. I couldn’t think of a better city to kick this off in.”
Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said small businesses are certainly the lifeblood of the community.
“The opportunity to support men and women who own small businesses is a tremendous opportunity for us as an administration,” she said.
Embassies of Christ Business Manager Scott Sloan was at the initiative announcement at City Hall and plans to take the message back to the church’s congregation.
“In this climate where companies are still downsizing and not hiring, it is in our interests to not only foster skills for professional who want to have gainful employment but even more so for people who want to develop businesses,” he said.