Hamilton banks, community groups partner to help businesses

Five banks will participate in a unique program to help empower minority business owners will be launched April 27 at the Booker T. Washington Community Center. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Five banks will participate in a unique program to help empower minority business owners will be launched April 27 at the Booker T. Washington Community Center. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Community leaders in Hamilton again have developed an innovative way to help businesses — this time in the minority community, in the wake of last year’s Black Lives Matter discussions across the country.

On Tuesday evening, four banks and a credit union will meet at the Booker T. Washington Community Center with people who own businesses, or have ideas for businesses, and need help with funding and planning the creation of a company.

It’s a rare alliance of four businesses that usually compete against each other. They will join an effort to help uplift people, especially those who live or work in Hamilton’s Second Ward and Fourth Ward neighborhoods, which also are known as Riverview and Jefferson, respectively.

“My thing behind this was, ‘Just because you’re poor doesn’t mean you’re not smart,” said Greater Hamilton Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Dan Bates. “And just because you’re poor doesn’t mean you couldn’t be a very successful entrepreneur.”

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Five banks will participate in a unique program to help empower minority business owners will be launched April 27 at the Booker T. Washington Community Center. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Five banks will participate in a unique program to help empower minority business owners will be launched April 27 at the Booker T. Washington Community Center. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

“But being poor, or disconnected, or in a more challenged environment means you’ll probably never get that opportunity,” Bates said. “So that’s what this program’s about.”

“While a lot of people around the country are talking,” Bates said, “I thought this would be a good time, while people are now willing to listen, to start to move something forward.”

Candice White, small business development manager for Key Bank in Hamilton, is proud some of her native city’s banks are uniting to help would-be entrepreneurs, or those already with businesses.

“Outside of my connection to Hamilton, I live in the Riverview community,” said White, who graduated with the Hamilton High School Class of 2007.

“Really, it’s just getting that information out there to minority business owners who may not have the tools or resources needed to get their businesses to the next level,” White said. “There are so many people with great ideas, they just don’t know how to get there — how to turn that idea into a business.”

Aside from Key Bank, the other participants are LCNB National Bank; Telhio Credit Union; First Financial Bank; and Huntington Bank.

Other than important loans for their endeavors, people can receive free help creating business plans that are critical in helping owners make important future decisions in growing their companies, such as how large of loans they should seek.

White believe the collaboration among the banks can be powerful, “because what one bank may do, the other may not.”

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Five banks will participate in a unique program to help empower minority business owners will be launched April 27 at the Booker T. Washington Community Center. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Five banks will participate in a unique program to help empower minority business owners will be launched April 27 at the Booker T. Washington Community Center. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Five banks will participate in a unique program to help empower minority business owners will be launched April 27 at the Booker T. Washington Community Center. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
Five banks will participate in a unique program to help empower minority business owners will be launched April 27 at the Booker T. Washington Community Center. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

“You can’t do everything alone,” she said, “So when Dan brought this up, like, ‘Hey, could you be a part of this?’ I’m like, ‘Absolutely.’ She reached out to bank leaders, seeking to develop a specific loan program for neighborhoods like those.

The Riverview neighborhood “used to have tons of businesses, so now where we are, we’re kind of making that a reality,” she said.

She hopes the program will show “there is the space for someone who has a catering company, that there are the resources out there to take that catering company where it needs to be.”

The idea “was really supported by the dialogue that happened at that State of Reality conversation, with people saying what they needed,” Bates said. He realized “there were so many resources that exist that people are not aware of.”

“There are a lot of resources in Hamilton if you want to be a business entrepreneur that are free,” Bates said.

On the other hand, “We see so many businesses that get started that don’t have the right partners at the table, don’t have the right resources, or just don’t have all the knowledge they need to make sure they’re successful,” he said.

“When I came here and saw what Hamilton was all about and the possibilities, I also saw that we could make some progress and movement forward in social change,” Bates said. “So a personal passion of mine is how can you begin that social change to happen?”

The Empowerment Program

Where: Booker T. Washington Community Center, Hamilton

When: 6:30 p.m. April 27

Who: Small-business owners, or would-be owners, who can use help

What else: No registration is required. Just show up.

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