The saying “great minds think alike” is realized when those minds actually get to work together. Such is the case with Willie Logan and Leroy Jones. Each man has a track record for working in his community to enhance each area’s quality of life; Logan through the Opa-locka Community Development Corporation and Jones through The Black Economic Development D/A Tools for Change organization based in Liberty City.

They now get to combine their efforts thanks to a $3.65 million grant that has them working together as the North-Miami-Dade CDFI; one of five groups nationwide sharing in a $20 million investment from the bank’s

PRO Neighborhoods initiative. The project seeks local solutions to support distressed communities and accelerate economic recovery by creating affordable housing and providing entrepreneurs and small business owners with access to capital, shared office space, technical assistance and resources to support their growth.

Logan said the partnership is perfect because it utilizes each organization’s expertise for the good of both communities, Opa-locka and Liberty City.

“You had to have an active program providing technical assistance, new development or you can demonstrate that there had been an increase in market and need, also required housing or commercial community development initiatives that would create jobs or provide services that you could implement within a two to three year period,” Logan explained about the grant requirements. Because Jones has “done really well in getting those small loans out, the county has provided resources for small black businesses,” it provides the “perfect marriage” with OPCDC, which fulfills the grant’s housing requirements. “They could really focus on the business and entrepreneur stuff and we could focus on the housing, the development and the services,” Logan explained.

And because both entities are already immersed in their respective work, the grant dollars will allow them to ramp up their provisions without either having to spend precious time building the necessary infrastructure.

Tools for Change, Logan said, “Has three business centers where they provide technical assistance. They help folks write business plans. They help folks through the entire process of being able to gear up and turn what could be working out of a garage into a more viable and sustainable business.”

He added, “We, on the other hand, do development. We have our own property. We had housing units on the drawing board that we need additional subsidy for. We have this commercial kitchen that had been on the drawing board, so we had the projects and we also had the services.”

What happens next will involve Jones “bringing business and technical assistance to the Opa-locka, Miami Gardens area and begin to provide more loans to businesses up here, particularly those that are in this new development that we’re doing.”

“More than that, they can now use that money to do higher amounts of loans and more loans in targeted markets in Liberty City,” he added.

“More importantly, we can use this money to leverage and bring additional dollars, which is, quite frankly, our first priority; to turn this $3.5 million into something a lot more.”

“Every dollar put into helping more people in Miami participate in our city’s economic opportunities is an investment in our future and these funds will go to community organizations that are helping families and small business owners get ahead and build a path to prosperity,” said Guillermo Castillo, market leader and head of commercial banking for Chase in South Florida.

The legal entanglement the city of Opalocka has been embroiled in has made

Logan’s work more difficult. In addition to two federal investigations: one by the FBI into corruption involving city officials, and another by the Securities and Exchange Commission into the city’s questionable bond deal to buy the new City Hall, the impoverished area is also under state control following years of mismanagement.

“If you had a more effective partnership with your government entity and they had and used resources in a more collaborative way, we would be a lot further with our work and the community in having the types of neighborhoods that they desire,” Logan said.

While more challenging, the city’s difficulties have “forced us to relook at our work and to do more. We were never in the parks business, for example, but we’ve purchased land, built a park and are now managing a park,” he shared.

He’s optimistic about the Opa-locka’s prospects. “I’m hopeful that this, too, shall pass and the city will get back on track and become the partner that it can become.” When asked if his work is his “calling,” Logan responded, “No question about that. I can’t ever see myself doing anything else. I love it here.”

Entrepreneurs interested in the small business lending and technical assistance program in Opa-locka and Liberty City are encouraged to call 305-756-0605 or visit TFC AT 180 NW 62ND Street, Miami 33150; or visit the web site at Bi-weekly loan application workshops are provided year around, where the application is reviewed in detail to help entrepreneurs complete it and answer any loan application related questions. Applications are currently being accepted.