Atlanta Non-Profit Seeks Remedies For Racial Wealth Gap Reinvigorated By New Board And Significant Funding

Staff Report From Metro Atlanta CEO

Thursday, April 25th, 2019

The Atlanta Wealth Building Initiative (AWBI) has received $1 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to support pathways to business ownership for African Americans in metropolitan Atlanta with a focus on improving owner outcomes and financial security for employees, neighborhoods and the broader economy in order to become a platform designed to close the racial wealth gap.

The grant from the Kellogg Foundation, along with support from Annie E. Casey Foundation and The Kendeda Fund, will strengthen AWBI’s ability to address wealth disparity in Atlanta.  The AWBI holds a unique position among Atlanta nonprofits, as the only organization to focus on the creation of an ecosystem that intentionally promotes the democratization of the local economy and the ownership of wealth in all Atlanta communities.  While Atlanta has the 10th largest Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the nation, it is also ranked as  the worst city for income inequality (Brookings, 2018), which particularly impacts systemically disenfranchised communities, including communities of color.

“Community wealth building presents an opportunity to restore the American dream throughout Atlanta, especially for those whose dreams have long been deferred or denied,” said Tené Traylor, AWBI’s Board Chair and Fund Advisor for The Kendeda Fund. “It will take a movement to make Atlanta a community where everyone has an equal chance to succeed economically — and that demands bold leadership, smart investments and long-term commitment.,” Ms. Traylor added. 

 “AWBI’s work to advance wealth building and democratize wealth in Atlanta is an important step in the national approach to closing the racial wealth gap that we are proud

to support,” said Jeanne Wardford, Program Officer for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Our country stands to realize an $8 trillion gain in GDP by closing the U.S. racial equity gap according to “The Business Case For Racial Equity: A Strategy For Growth,” published by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms also applauds AWBI’s efforts as directly in sync with her “One Atlanta” initiative as well as her recent efforts with Invest Atlanta designed to promote entrepreneurship south of I-20. “The challenge of wealth inequality stems from a lack of access and opportunity,” said Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. “I am pleased that AWBI is empowering communities of color to move the needle for future generations. Partnerships such as these, help build an equitable and resilient economy – taking us closer to our One Atlanta vision. By ensuring everyone has the means to succeed, residents are provided with inclusive opportunities that foster prosperity for all.”

Originally launched by the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta in 2011, AWBI revised its focus in Fall 2017, with support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation and The Kendeda Fund, to investing in a network of green, community-based enterprises in communities of color. AWBI’s agenda now advances economic inclusion, with an emphasis on the Atlanta Beltline overlay – the communities that are located within one-half mile of Atlanta’s popular Beltline.

AWBI’s efforts are guided by a community of practice (CoP), a multi-sector coalition, which represents more than 30 community-based organizations, public agencies and institutions committed to systemic, collective intervention that strengthens Black entrepreneurship and addresses pervasive racial wealth inequities in the city.

AWBI  supports business ownership and works to enhance the capacity of businesses to stabilize changing communities in Atlanta, particularly in the Beltline overlay south of I-20.

As part of its investments and thought leadership strategy, AWBI awarded three (3) six-

month planning grants to build the capacity of existing actors who are developing innovative approaches to advance the local economy and entrepreneurial capacity in

Atlanta: The Road to Wealth Project, a partnership between the Economic Empowerment Initiative (EEI) and the National Black MBA Association; The Guild, working to implement a new economy business model for the Sweet Auburn Historic District; and Georgia Watch and Georgia MicroEnterprise Network (GMEN), coordinating plans to support black-owned businesses on the Beltline’s Westside Trail. 

AWBI board members and COP members also participated in learning journeys to Nexus Community Partners in Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN as well as Evergreen Cooperatives in Cleveland, OH.  An AWBI delegation also attended the BALLE 2018 Shift Capital conference and Policy Link Equity Summit 2018.

In addition to Ms. Traylor, AWBI’s Board currently includes:

  • Stuart Andreason, Federal Reserve Center for Workforce and Economic Development

  • Alan Ferguson, Invest Atlanta

  • Lesley Grady, Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

  • Ellen Macht, Social Enterprise Consultant

  • Tyler Nickerson, Amalgamated Bank

  • Nonet Sykes, Atlanta Beltline

  • Jon Thompson, Comunidad Connect

  • Janelle Williams, The Annie E. Casey Foundation