The leader of Atlanta’s jobs recruitment agency and development authority says the agency will focus on five areas in 2023 to help residents cope with rising costs of living and businesses thrive in case of an economic downturn.
Invest Atlanta CEO Eloisa Klementich told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that her agency plans to focus on affordable housing, cultivating small businesses, worker training and targeting assistance to disinvested neighborhoods.
Here are the five areas of focus:
Mayor Andre Dickens set a lofty goal to build or preserve 20,000 affordable housing units by 2026. Invest Atlanta is one of multiple city agencies including the Atlanta Housing Authority engaged with tackling affordability. Invest Atlanta said it provided funding towards construction or rehabilitation of 1,637 affordable multifamily housing units in 2022. More than 7,550 affordable units have been delivered since 2018, which includes the tenure of Dickens’ predecessor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, according to a city dashboard.
The city’s purchase of multiple large buildings, such as 2 Peachtree in downtown, to convert into dense affordable housing will further that goal. She said Invest Atlanta combines funding with other nonprofits and city departments to subsidize housing.
Invest Atlanta also is ramping up efforts to rehabilitate single-family houses to keep long-time owners in their homes. In 2022, Invest Atlanta helped fund improvements to 60 houses, which varies from roof repairs to replacing lead pipes.
“You’re going to see us targeting seniors, single heads of household, the disabled and veterans,” she said of rehab efforts this year.
Down payment assistance to homebuyers and businesses
First-time buyers have been at a disadvantage with buyers who can pay in cash. Klementich said Invest Atlanta is ramping up its down payment assistance programs.
Last year, Invest Atlanta launched the 30PLUS program, which in conjunction with other programs helped 103 low- to mid-income residents buy their first home by offering up to $30,000 in assistance.
“It was very hard for a lot of our lower income individuals to be able to go compete against cash offers to buy a home,” she said.
In addition, Invest Atlanta offers commercial loans to help business owners buy their own storefront. Eligible entrepreneurs can receive up to 20% or $200,000 toward purchasing commercial property. Loans are capped at 3% interest rates, and all applications are vetted by Invest Atlanta staff.
“We’re going to watch (the economy) really closely, and we’re known to be able to create loan funds very quickly,” she said. “... We think we’re going to have a record year this year, more loans than we’ve ever done in our history.”
Small businesses assistance
The agency launched five small business resource centers across the city last year to provide technical assistance to entrepreneurs. Two more were added this year.
Klementich said technical assistance and Invest Atlanta’s additional training programs not only helps individuals get better jobs but it helps encourage more companies to come to Atlanta for the city’s talent.
“We’re seeing the benefit because it connected directly to our companies,” she said. “The more workforce, the more competitive your city.”
Invest Atlanta’s role with workforce development will change in June, because the city will launch its first-ever Department of Labor. Klementich said she plans to collaborate with the new department by providing information on what skills companies need.
Financial support for small businesses
Klementich said pursuing grants and partnerships to offer financial assistance to small business will be a top priority in 2023.
Last year, the agency provided financial support or technical assistance to one-in-23 registered businesses in Atlanta. Invest Atlanta will apply for a Community Property Assessed Clean Energy grant (CPACE), a federal program that helps businesses finance renewable energy improvements to their buildings.
Many of those programs, such as the $20 million Atlanta Open for Business fund, specifically assist minority- and women-owned businesses. Klementich said the city must maintain its reputation as a wellspring for Black and minority talent and innovation.
“It really is what distinguishes Atlanta, this diversification of talent and diversification of business. If you want to be an amazing Black entrepreneur, come to Atlanta,” she said.
Invest Atlanta spent nearly half of its capital investments on overlooked and historically ignored parts of the city. Nearly $324 million went to disinvested neighborhoods, consisting of all funds awarded through Invest Atlanta programs, which includes leveraged capital from other funding sources beyond city dollars.
Invest Atlanta uses 23 metrics, from education level to grocery access, to determine which areas need the extra funding. Most of those neighborhoods are in the southern half of the city, and Klementich said Invest Atlanta’s efforts last year helped create 750 jobs in addition to the agency’s other programs.
Going forward, she said her agency will continue to track which areas are benefitting from programs and grant allocations, while tracking their results. She added that Invest Atlanta will apply for a Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (CDFI) grant, a federal program that provides financing for economic initiatives in low-income urban and rural areas.
“We’re an economic development agency for the entire city, but we want to pay specific attention to these disinvested areas,” she said.
2022 Invest Atlanta Annual Report by Zachary Hansen on Scribd
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