By Jan Worth-Nelson
From an espresso machine to snow plows, from drywall to parking lots, from a kayak launch to a flat top grill, from beauty supplies to fabrics, from TV marketing to landscaping, from outdoor lighting to pizza stones.
All these are among a diverse batch of practical projects awarded $10,000 each to 15 small businesses through a new General Motors-funded small business program of the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce under the MovingFlintForward (MFF) umbrella.
The small grants are an acknowledgement that the city needs more than downtown development, according to Tim Herman, Chamber of Commerce CEO, and needs to focus additionally on neighborhoods.
“Over the past two years, we have focused much of our efforts on redeveloping the downtown area, creating a more vibrant entertainment and business district,” he said in opening remarks at a press conference announcing the grants at the Sylvester Broome Empowerment Village.
“But we know that Flint’s rebound must extend beyond downtown and into our neighborhoods to see longterm sustainable change,” he said, adding that the small business program “will create an important pathway.”
One aspect of the plan, designed to create expanding layers of sustainability, is that businesses receiving grants are required to partner with a local nonprofit organization serving the community, or to address an ongoing need from a long list of neighborhood issues, including transportation concerns, blight, infrastructure, housing, youth and senior services, education and health.
“Neighbors will be helping neighbors,” Herman said.
Terry Rhadigan, GM executive director of corporate giving, said, “In corporate philanthropy, we’re used to donating money to nonprofit organizations. This is a rare chance for us instead to invest in small businesses, to help stabilize neighborhoods that are then more vibrant.”
Mike Perez, plant executive director for GM Flint Assembly, agreed.
“We now have a business that is really thriving,” he said, “and it is really important that the community thrives with us.”
“Partnerships like these will allow residents of our city to have hope again,” said Skeeter Holmes, owner of Holmes Building and Construction at the Clio and Carpenter roads, and one of the recipients.
He said the grants would help “build, develop, restore and bring our city to the wealthy place it once was. We can do this together.”
Barbara Culp, owner of N’Dapanda Consignment Shop on Martin Luther King Boulevard, said the grant supports her efforts specifically to be part of revitalization of the MLK business district. She will use her grant to help sustain a peace garden and to move her business from her home into a repurposed garage.
“I believe in Flint, bringing people to our neighborhoods,” she said. “I can make changes for myself and many others,” noting that “N’Dapanda” means “I’m happy” in Swahili.
“We are committed to revitalizing King Avenue and its neighborhood,” she said, noting that all over the country, “King Avenues are very neglected. And we in Flint, Michigan, we want to change that.”
When she first moved her business from a prior location, she said from her front window she could see 12 vacant lots on King.
“I challenged the group I was working with to do a Peace Garden that honors Dr. King. Now those vacant lots are a community space used for library story reading, weddings, readings and pulling weeds.”
The funds will help sustain and develop the garden, and her renovated space will provide a clearinghouse of coordinating events and provide the business office for her shop.
Oaklin Mixon, owner of GoodBoy Clothing upstairs on Saginaw Street, said, the grant will “Give us the supplies we need to get to the next level.” He said his company, which has four employees, recent expanded its retail to the Dryden Building and can now use his flagship location for production, cut and sew.
The neighborhood emphasis of the new program fits in well with his aims, Mixon suggested. What GoodBoy represents, he said, is “the restoring of good culture–families, community. As a business we want to use fashion as a megaphone to push that culture forward.”
Mayor Sheldon Neeley recalled he used to ride his bike near the Broome Center, and welcomed the return of a neighborhood focus. “Small business growth is important to the resurrection of any particular community,” he said, adding the grants will help the recipients “get a great start” with their ideas,.
Recipients announced at the Thursday press conference, along with their project summaries, are:
Totem Books, 620 W. Court St., to pay for a new espresso machine, refrigerator, HVAC maintenance and water filter installation.
Honey Bee Palace Child Care Center, 642 E. Pierson Rd., buy equipment and furniture, including child lockers, tables, sleeping cots, teacher floor chairs and infant cribs.
Great Lakes Facility Management, 1428 W. Court St., parking lot repairs and landscaping.
N’Dapanda Consignment Shop, 3022 Martin Luther King Ave. bring a garage/outbuilding up to code to relocate business from its current location in the home. Electrical work, labor, materials; carpentry, installing insulation and firebrick; drywall and painting.
Beck’s Barber and Beauty, 1818 S. Averill Ave. to continue renovations at current facility, purchase salon/furniture and hot water heater; repave parking lot.
Tenacity Brewing, 119 N. Grand Traverse Ave. add gas fire pit in it biergarten; build landing base for kayak launch, upgrade Kayak Flint’s shipping containing, upgrade Vehicle City Taco Truck; resurface and expand parking lot; improve building facade, outdoor lighting, landscaping and fence.
FlintPrints, 615 S. Saginaw St. to purchase a wide-format printer, hire part-time staff, expand location in the Ferris Wheel.
Sherman’s Lounge, 4211 Fenton Rd. Purchase flat-top grill, counter top fryer, fire suppression unit, exhaust system and four pizza stones.
Vern’s Collision, 2409 Davison Rd. Upgrade its paint booth and outside lighting.
GoodBoy Clothing, 522 S. Saginaw St. expand merchandise line with fabric, supplies labor, overhead costs, table, display improvements, lighting, electrical and marketing signage.
Liberty Way Holdings, 1200 W. Court St. exterior lighting and cameras, parking lot repair and expansion, landscaping; niehgobhrood cleanup event, general contractor/consultant.
Sisco’s Catering, 2202 Proctor Ave. Downpayment on a commercial kitchen loan; provide cooking and meal prep courses, pop-up inventory to cater at special events; marketing/promotional materials.
Glam Box Boutique, 620 S. Saginaw St. Outdoor speakers, inventory, window vinyl, product development, advertising, marketing.
In & Out Complete Services, 3010 Wilton Place, purchase equipment for lawn car/snow removal, including double-axle enclosed trailer snow plow, bagging system, snow blower.
Holmes Building & Construction, 7014 Clio Rd., complete renovations to open to the public– roofing, wood sheeting, flat wall panels, continue education course for Michigan Builders’ license, promotional banner.
Chamber officials said they received more than 100 applications. Grant review coordinator Dr. Herbert Miller, pastor of Metropolitan Baptist Church, asserted, “These types of funds can make a difference when you are struggling to survive — to a positive effect” and urged those whose proposals were not accepted to try again in a hoped-for next round.
Recipients will receive the money in three installments, the last third delivered after final reports at the end of the first program period, May 31 2020.
Banner photo: Grant recipients with Mayor Sheldon Neeley and officials from the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce and funder General Motors. Seeking ID confirmation on several of the below. From left:
- Fletcher Rheaves, Great Lakes Facilities Management
- Cordell Beck, Beck’s Barber and Beauty
- Mike Perez, plant executive director for GM Flint Assembly
- Tim Herman, Flint & Genesee Chamber CEO
- Bernard Drew, Liberty Way Holdings
- Terry Rhadigan, GM executive director of corporate giving
- Unknown (FlintPrints employee)
- Emily Burns, In & Out Complete Services
- FlintPrints employee (ID pending)
- FlintPrints employee (ID pending)
- Barbara Culp, N’Dapanda Consignment Shop
- Kelly Sanders, FlintPrints
- Pastor Dr. Herbert Miller II, Metropolitan Baptist Tabernacle
- Skeeter Holmes, Holmes Buiding & Construction
- Dean Yeotis, Totem Books
- Michael Herriman, Vern’s Collision
- Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley
- Teyana Sprinkle, Honey Bee Palace
- Deborah Sprinkle, Honey Bee Palace
- Oaklin Mixon, GoodBoy Clothing
- Sisco Catering employee (ID pending)
- Jason Caya, Tenacity Brewing
- Thurmond Sisco, Sisco’s Catering
- Deria Brown, Glam Box Boutique
- Antoine Brown, Glam Box Boutique
EVM Editor Jan Worth-Nelson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.