Willie Logan, CEO of the Opa-locka Community Development Center



Special to South Florida Times

OPA-LOCKA, Fla. – Several small, minority owned businesses in Opa-locka, Miami Gardens and Liberty City will soon have access to financial capital, entrepreneurship training and consulting services thanks to a community-based grant awarded to the Opa-locka Community Development Corporation (OLCDC).

The grant, which was provided by the JPMorgan Chase Foundation, aims to help break down financial barriers experienced by many entrepreneurs and startups, while also promoting economic inclusion and opportunities for those in underserved populations.

“Connecting underrepresented small businesses with the resources and capital they need to grow is not only good for the economic health of the community, but it’s also good business,” said Carlos Alzate, head of JPMorgan Chase business banking in South Florida. “Over the past several years, Chase has referred hundreds of small businesses to our trusted Community Development Financial Institutions Fund partners, and we’re pleased that many come back to Chase for a small business loan when the time is right.”

In 2016, JPMorgan Chase provided more than $3 million to the Opa-locka Community Development Business Fund to create a program that would benefit hundreds of local small businesses in low- to-moderate-income communities in South Florida.

The business fund will be used as an alternative financing opportunity for individuals who may not qualify for traditional lending options.

Businesses will also have access to mentoring services through the fund’s technical assistance program, which will provide counseling in areas such as accounting, marketing, legal and business planning.

“Through the Opa-locka Business Fund, we are trying to make a real difference in our small business community,” said Willie Logan, chief executive officer of OLCDC.

“Many of the small business owners in our community have told us how difficult it is to be an entrepreneur, particularly when there isn’t access to capital for strategic growth.

Now, we’ll be able to lend a helping hand to small businesses, startups and entrepreneurs through capital and training, which in turn will help stimulate our local economy.”

According to a 2017 report by the Ewing Marion Kaufman Foundation, the Miami metropolitan area – which includes MiamiDade, Broward and Palm Beach counties – was ranked No. 1 in the nation for business startup activity.

However, with many companies and startups being created each year throughout South Florida, there are still those that find it difficult to reach high levels of growth because of a “capital gap” that is common between starting a business and scaling up.

For Johnny Fannin, owner of Crabman 305 in Opa-locka, the money from the business fund is providing much-needed capital and allowing him to expand his business – something that seemed nearly impossible a few years back.

Fannin, who started his business by making seafood dishes from his own home, said his popular seafood-based restaurant attracts thousands of local residents, tourists and celebrities each year and the plan to relocate to a new location is something that has been in the works for years.

“Crabman 305 has become a staple in the Miami food scene, and the support from our customers has been absolutely fantastic,” said Fannin. “It’s a very exciting time for our business, and we look forward to offering more services to our customers during their dining experience with us, including live entertainment and a community kitchen. We hope to be up and running at our new location by July 2018.”

For more information about the Opa-locka Community Development Business Fund, visit www.opalockabusinessfund.com.