While statistics show the Atlanta region has among the largest number of Black-owned businesses in the nation, officials note many aspiring Black entrepreneurs still have trouble getting their projects started. The venture capital firms are traditionally West Coast-based while Black student entrepreneurs, particularly those attending HBCUs, are largely located on the East Coast and in the South.
Bank of America has made a $1 billion, four-year commitment to advance racial equality and economic opportunity. Wendy Stewart, Atlanta market president for Bank of America, cited the colleges’ social mobility rates as part of the reason for working with them on the center. Cynthia Bowman, a Spelman graduate who is chief diversity and inclusion and talent acquisition officer for Bank of America, believes the center can have a significant impact on students and the surrounding community.
“This collective partnership will work to eliminate existing barriers by providing unique opportunities to Black entrepreneurs, ultimately fueling Black innovation and economic mobility within the next generation,” Bowman said.
Many of the nation’s largest companies have made commitments in recent months to Atlanta’s HBCUs. Just last month, Apple and Atlanta-based Southern Company announced plans to invest $50 million in a technology center in the city to help students at all of the nation’s historically Black colleges and universities.
Spelman President Mary Schmidt Campbell said the college will work on curriculum that will help students and working adults.
“We plan to hire top tier faculty, support our students financially, continue to grow co-curricular programs that offer real world experience, and offer courses online for those adults who are already in the workplace. We appreciate Bank of America for its investment in institutions that affirm the identity, history and culture of the next generation of Black entrepreneurs,” said Campbell.