Murphy: Here’s how N.J. is working to help entrepreneurs from underserved communities

The weight of centuries of oppression has robbed Black communities of wealth and deprived them of business opportunities, Gov. Phil Murphy said at the Juneteenth Black Business Expo.

Murphy, speaking Thursday at Montclair State University at an event sponsored by the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey, said the tradition of Black entrepreneurship was built against the constant headwinds of systemic racism – a dynamic that, for many, only fully came to light following the murder of George Floyd and the pandemic.

“The pandemic pulled back the veil, laying bare the far-reaching consequences of systemic racism,” he said. “COVID-19 was hard on all of us, but it was particularly hard on the folks in this room, whether it was your health or your business.

“As you know from your own experiences, even before the pandemic, Black-owned businesses start with significantly less capital than their white counterparts and have a harder time getting investors and loans.

“Yet despite these challenges, and this is a huge testament, Black businesses have come roaring back, opening at the fastest rate in the past quarter century. That is testament to your hard work, perseverance, and ingenuity.”

Murphy said his administration has been working to help entrepreneurs from underserved communities – whether they be Black, Hispanic, women or veterans – since he took office in 2018.

He noted the following efforts that have been implemented or proposed:

· The $20 million Black and Latino Seed Fund: This will specifically invest in innovative, early-stage companies run by Black and Latino entrepreneurs. In addition, Black and Latino fund managers will be making the investments decisions on the fund.

· The $20 million Diverse Developers Fund and a separate Social Impact Fund: This will help emerging developers access commercial opportunities – and ensure emerging developers can participate in affordable housing initiatives.

· Government contract procurement program: The state has partnered with the African American Chamber of Commerce on a program to provide in-depth classes and strategic counseling to help small businesses owned by women and people of color. Last year, over 100 small businesses completed the program. So far, 50 have gone on to secure a combined $40 million in government contracts.

· Cannabis: As part of the state regulations, 30 percent of recreational cannabis licenses must be awarded to businesses owned by people of color, women, and disabled veterans. And 70 percent of the sales tax proceeds will be invested in the communities hurt by marijuana-related arrests.

· Nurture NJ: In an effort to improve devastatingly poor maternal and infant health care for people of color, first lady Tammy Murphy is a leading a whole-of-government approach that is giving N.J. the most robust universal newborn home visiting nurse program in the country.

Murphy said he recognizes these efforts are just a start – one, he said, that has been long overdue.

“While we cannot and must not escape the past, today is also about the future – it is about empowerment and coming together as a community to lift each other up,” he said.

“Our nation was built by women and men like you – those who dared to defy the status quo, the dreamers who saw that mountaintop, and the believers who said, ‘Yes, we can seek a more perfect union.’”

Murphy said the journey is one that everyone needs efforts from everyone.

“It is not an easy path that we walk, but together we are building a stronger and fairer New Jersey where everyone has the opportunity to realize their dreams – where every child can grow up healthy – and where everyone can live out their lives with dignity and respect,” he said.