By Breonna Randall
WASHINGTON —Black businesses and efforts to boost entrepreneurial education and opportunities at the nation’s 101 historically Black colleges and universities (HBCU) and their surrounding communities got a $16.8 million boost today from PNC Bank through the PNC Foundation.
PNC is providing the five-year grant to Howard University for the university to create The Howard University and PNC National Center for Entrepreneurship, which will provide entrepreneurship education and research that will serve the nation’s HBCUs and promote entrepreneurship opportunities and support for minority-owned businesses in their communities.
PNC Bank, which operates in 2,945 branches in 27 states and the District of Columbia, is one of the nation’s largest banks, with financial services such as asset management, wealth management, estate planning, loan servicing and information processing.
PNC Chairman President and CEO Bill Demchak in a joint press release with Howard University said one of his company’s goals is to bridge some of the divides that Black entrepreneurs face in operating a small business as well as access to money so they can grow their companies.”
“We recognize that small businesses are the lifeblood of the U.S. economy, and ensuring the success of Black-,… minority-, women- and veteran-owned businesses is critical to ensuring a more diverse and inclusive economy,” Demchak said.
While the main center will be located at Howard University in Washington, the program will include three other regional centers at Morgan State University in Baltimore, Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta and Texas Southern University in Houston, the statement said.
Each center will lead entrepreneur efforts for businesses and entrepreneurial programs at HBCUs in its region.
A major focus for the center and its regional HBCU partners will be to expand access to entrepreneurship opportunities by engaging students, business owners and communities of color in growing their enterprises, with a goal of increasing employment and wealth for students attending HBCU, according to Richard Bynum, chief corporate responsibility officer for PNC.
“In addition to enhancing entrepreneurship education, the center will be a significant resource not only to the HBCU institutions, but also to the community at large in innovation, creativity, entrepreneurship, technology commercialization and regional technological and economic development,” Bynum said
Wayne A. I. Frederick, president of Howard University, said the center at Howard will be an effective champion of interdisciplinary entrepreneurship education and entrepreneurial development within the African-American community.
“The Howard University and PNC National Center for Entrepreneurship will leverage those efforts in a more focused and collaborative way to serve as a national resource hub for HBCUs to enhance entrepreneurship education and empower young Black entrepreneurs,” Frederick said
Some educational programs, including those focused on leadership development, monetary management, technology and entrepreneurship, will be offered at the Howard center as well as through virtual platforms with partner HBCUs, he said.
Among its other goals, the Howard center wants to help build Black small business capacity by leveraging partnerships with local chambers of commerce and other institutions to provide mentorship and networking opportunities, he said.
The center will also partner with Black businesses to improve credit, increase access to capital, provide undergraduate and graduate students hands-on experience in working with Black businesses and entrepreneurs, provide access to technologies that can increase the success of Black businesses, provide access to universities’ procurement process, and assist in applying for loans and access to capital, the statement said.
According to the statement, the grant is part of PNC’s $88 billion Community Benefits Plan announced in April. It will provide loans, investments and other financial support to benefit low- and moderate-income individuals and communities, people and communities of color, and other underserved individuals and communities over a four-year period.
The plan includes a commitment of more than $1.5 billion to support the economic empowerment of Black Americans and low- and moderate- income communities.