A $300,000 grant has been awarded to the U.S. Economic Development Administration, University Center at the University of Maryland, College Park and Morgan State University (UMD-Morgan EDA Center) to help Maryland small businesses respond to the devastating economic impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic. Issued as part of the EDA’s CARES Act Recovery Assistance, the grant will fund critical efforts by the UMD-Morgan EDA Center and its partners to boost technical assistance, supplies, creative approaches to business and commercial operations and pathways to entrepreneurship.
“This grant will further support our charge to help small businesses weather economic challenges, and the pandemic has only made that mission more vital,” said Gerrit Knaap, principal investigator and director of the University of Maryland National Center for Smart Growth, which houses the UMD-Morgan EDA Center.
The grant will fund three interrelated activities targeting the urgent challenges currently facing small businesses. These activities, Knaap says, will bring together expertise in technology, placemaking, economic development and research, offering on-the-ground assistance to help businesses adapt to the current and post-pandemic landscape.
Purple Line Corridor Small Business, Back-to-Mortar, Toolkit (PLT): Led by the University of Maryland, the PLT will provide technical assistance, custom personal protective equipment and resources to minority-owned small retail and restaurants already made vulnerable by the construction of the Purple Line light rail corridor. Expertise from UMD faculty and community-minded organizations, including Professor of Architecture Ronit Eisenbach, Urban Planning Lecturer Bobby Boone and Manuel Ochoa of Ochoa Urban Collaborative will help businesses navigate the safety aspects of service, re-think how they utilize public space to serve their customers and capitalize on legal, marketing and operational support. These efforts further the goals outlined in the Purple Line Community Development Agreement launched in 2017 by the Purple Line Corridor Coalition, a consortium of regional stakeholders led by UMD’s National Center for Smart Growth.
Baltimore City COVID-19 Response: Moran State University (MSU) will continue its work addressing the specific challenges of small businesses in Central and West Baltimore. The grant will allow MSU to bolster an established partnership with The Robinson Group (formerly the Mount Royal Community Development Corporation) and a network of over a dozen community stakeholders, nonprofits and economic think tanks, including CityLab, Coppin State, University, Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance and The Living Well. Concentrating on small, minority-owned and minority-serving businesses, the network with identify strategies to increase success.
“I am excited to work with The Robinson Group (TRG) and its partners and alliances and the University of Maryland to develop strategies that will help Baltimore’s minority-owned or minority-serving small businesses to mitigate the negative effects of the coronavirus pandemic through innovation, entrepreneurship, applications of new technologies, networking, and proper use and access to personal protective equipment (PPE),” said Siddhartha Sen, Associate Dean of the School of Architecture at Morgan State. “The project perfectly fits into Morgan State University's (MSU) mission as a Historically Black College/University (HBCU).”
Innovation and entrepreneurship: To meet the shifting priorities and trends of a changing economic landscape, UMD, together with the University System of Maryland, will help small businesses pursue new business ideas, commercialize technology, connect to customers and discover niche markets and investors.
“Innovative thinking will be essential to Maryland’s economic recovery,” said Julie Lenzer, UMD’s Chief Innovation Officer. “This grant will help us develop programs to arm small businesses and innovators with the resources, expertise and tools to adapt and thrive in a rapidly changing economic environment.”
Established in 2011, the UMD-Morgan EDA Center provides targeted assistance to Maryland communities through research, workforce development and entrepreneurship, as well as business counseling services. The Center also helps local organizations conduct preliminary feasibility studies, analyze data and convene customized seminars and workshops on topics such as regional strategic planning and capital budgeting. Under the direction of C. Scott Dempwolf and Sen, the center developed a comprehensive economic development strategy for the City of Baltimore and launched the Morgan Community Mile, an initiative that engages community stakeholders to define equitable, sustainable projects for the growing neighborhood surrounding Morgan State University.
Beyond immediate relief efforts, the work stemming from the CARES act grant will help the UMD-Morgan EDA Center build a foundation for future economic work and resiliency in Maryland.
The CARES Act, signed into law by President Donald J. Trump on March 27, 2020, provided the EDA with $1.5 billion for economic development assistance programs to help communities prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus.