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$1 Million REDCO Grant Brings SBA Assistant Administrator Natalie Cofield to Rochester for Community Navigator Pilot Program

Staff report

Natalie Madeira Cofield Photo courtesy of SBA

Rochester Economic Development Corporation (REDCO) hosted Small Business Administration (SBA) Assistant Administrator Natalie Cofield on Jan. 26, 2022 in recognition of the SBA’s $1M grant to REDCO via their Community Navigator Pilot Program.

According to REDCO, the Community Navigator Pilot Program is part of the federal American Rescue Plan initiative; the pilot program is designed to reduce barriers that all small businesses, including those owned by disadvantaged groups such as veterans, women, and those from rural communities and communities of color, often face in accessing critical support.

REDCO says it plans to apply the grant funding to its innovative Resource Partner Enhancement Program (RPEP). RPEP is a 24-month peer learning cohort program designed to provide developmental support and collaboration opportunities that increases access to services and resources offered by local entrepreneur support organizations (ESOs).

The program aims to leverage public investment and a team of organizational coaches to build and maintain a cooperative network of support services for Rochester’s diverse small business community.

“The Small Business Administration is keenly aware of the economic challenges that the Greater Rochester area has historically faced. Our services to assist entrepreneurs from underserved communities in this region through the establishment of a Community Navigators project is vital and much needed,” said Natalie Madeira Cofield, Assistant Administrator, Office of Women’s Business Ownership, U.S. Small Business Administration. “We look forward to working with the REDCO to help small businesses, especially those that are women owned, in the region grow, survive and thrive.”

“As we continue to recover from the impacts of COVID-19, we need to uplift and support our business community and find new, creative ways to reinvigorate our local economy,” said Congressman Joe Morelle. “REDCO is a critical partner in these efforts and I’m delighted that their Resource Partner Enhancement Program will help support local entrepreneurs at a time when it’s needed most,” Morelle said, adding, “I’m grateful for REDCO’s leadership and look forward to our continued work together to foster innovative collaboration and grow our regional economy.”

“We are so pleased to welcome Assistant Administrator Cofield to Rochester and thrilled about the SBA’s generous support,” stated Baye Muhammad, REDCO’s chief executive officer. “This is the beginning of a new era of collaboration between our partners in service to our local entrepreneur community, and ultimately their families.”

“I am overjoyed by the SBA’s transformational investment in our second cohort of the Resource Partner Enhancement Program,” Dr. Lomax Campbell, president and chief executive officer of Third Eye Network, said. “Our first cohort has been able to accelerate the evolution of their organizations and increase the relevance of their offerings for our diverse small business community in the first year of the program.”

Cohort one launched in November 2020 with support from Empire State Development as part of REDCO’s Revitalize Rochester Fund. Partnerships that evolved among cohort one members have led to the launch of a new community-based business centers, legal and food-based business workshop series, financial and technical assistance programs, special technology-based certification training, and operational efficiencies capable of better meeting diverse small business needs.

Cohort two launched last week and includes RIT’s Center for Urban Entrepreneurship, Venture Jobs Foundation, Consumer Credit Counseling Services of Rochester, and the Business Insight Center at the Rochester Public Library among its support organizations. Each organization will be assigned an organizational coach who will assist with the development of informed enhancement plans, piloting new and improved programs and resources. They will also attend annual convenings, participate in an Undoing Racism® Workshop, and collaborate with their peers during monthly meetings to develop cohort-wide enhancements.