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Greater Baltimore Urban League to open new entrepreneurial center to aid small businesses

Baltimore, MD -- October 30, 2015 -- U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce Jay Williams speaks at the podium during a press conference in which he joined Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and National Urban League CEO Marc Morial (right) in an announcement of a $300,000 U.S. Economic Development Administration grant to the Urban League to develop a new entrepreneurship center in Baltimore. Barbara Haddock Taylor/Baltimore Sun
Baltimore, MD -- October 30, 2015 -- U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce Jay Williams speaks at the podium during a press conference in which he joined Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and National Urban League CEO Marc Morial (right) in an announcement of a $300,000 U.S. Economic Development Administration grant to the Urban League to develop a new entrepreneurship center in Baltimore. Barbara Haddock Taylor/Baltimore Sun (Barbara Haddock Taylor / Baltimore Sun)

With the help of a $300,000 federal grant, the Greater Baltimore Urban League plans to open a new Entrepreneurial Center in January to help fledgling Baltimore businesses, officials announced Friday.

Baltimore's center will be the 13th in the country, aimed at helping primarily black-owned small businesses increase revenue, create jobs and add wealth in the community, Marc H. Morial, CEO of the National Urban League, said Friday.

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"Black-owned businesses are essential to any thriving 21st-century urban community," Morial said. "There is tremendous will, tremendous initiative, tremendous energy out there in the Baltimore small-business community. What we've got to do is open some doors. What we have to do is build some ladders. What we have to do is help these businesses grow because as they grow, West Baltimore will grow, the city of Baltimore will grow."

The National Urban League is scheduled to hold its 2016 conference in Baltimore, which the organization estimates will bring $4.2 million in economic impact to the city.

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Existing entrepreneurial centers in cities such as Cleveland, New Orleans and Washington each serve about 1,000 small businesses a year and have helped create or save 100 jobs a year, Morial said.

Baltimore's entrepreneurial center will be housed at the Greater Baltimore Urban League's headquarters on Orchard Street in Seton Hill. It will be named for the late Raymond V. Haysbert Sr., who was CEO of the former Parks Sausage Co. and a past chairman of the local Urban League.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said the new center will "offer support for a community that has often been perceived as difficult to reach."

The U.S. Economic Development Administration is providing $300,000 in funding for the center.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Jay Williams said such programs are aimed at giving businesses equal opportunities.

"We have allowed for far too long for individuals to be defined by the ZIP codes in which they reside," he said. "In a country that defines itself on individualism and effort, that is something that we don't find acceptable."

The city also has agreed to help try to identify sources of funding for the center but has not committed to any specific dollar amounts, a spokesman for the mayor's office said.

Adrian Harpool, a spokesman for the Greater Baltimore Urban League, said they've already started reaching out to business owners in West Baltimore and across the city to gauge interest and to create a curriculum.

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