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$75,000 grant aims to help Midtown residents open small businesses

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Low-income entrepreneurs in Midtown St. Pete now have a pool of $75,000 to work from to launch small businesses in the community.

Thanks to a grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration presented to the Tampa Bay Black Business Investment Corp., hopeful business owners may now have access to the capital necessary to launch a new business.

“Part of the vision 2020 plan that this community has worked so hard to develop targets young, smart entrepreneurs, but the challenge here in St. Pete is they don’t have the capital to take that idea into reality. They don’t know where to begin,” said U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor during a press conference in front of the TBBIC office in Midtown. “They’ve got a great idea, something that’s going to serve this community, but oftentimes translating that wonderful idea into new jobs and new businesses can be very difficult.”

The grant is part of a collaboration between the city, federal government and TBBBIC to establish the PRIME Project – Program for Investment in Microentrepreneurs.

PRIME is expected to help as many as 220 low- or very low-income people looking to launch a new business in the deeply impoverished Midtown community.

Businesses can range from a barber shop to a corner store; a cell-phone repair shop to an auto mechanic.

“My commitment is to the people of this great city and investing in our people,” St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman said. “Investing in our people is far greater than investing in buildings alone.”

The PRIME Project will also provide resources for future business owners to identify and apply for funding.

“It’s one thing to have capital that you can provide but if you don’t have people that can avail [themselves of] capital then it’s all for naught,” TBBBIC CEO Albert Lee said.

The TBBIC spearheaded efforts to identify federal funding with support from the City Urban Affairs division, the city’s Greenhouse small business group, the Florida Small Business Development Center at Pinellas County Economic Development, the Pinellas Opportunity Council and the 2020 Plan Taskforce.

Support also came from the offices of U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and Castor.

Officials were joined at the press conference by City Council member Karl Nurse, candidate Will Newton, deputy mayor Kanika Tomalin and numerous other community leaders.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email

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