M&T Commits $250,000 to Southwest Businesses

We’re about to put some more muscle behind the Southwest Strong initiative for Southwest Philadelphia’s small businesses.

Many of us in the community have worked for the past several months to create the framework for the organization – Southwest Strong Community Association – that advocates to promote, exchange and highlight the various resources and partnerships available to small businesses in the district.

The thought behind this is strength in numbers, that creating a centralized area for people and businesses to access resources will only promote the overall health of the community. After a year of this pandemic, we know our community needs this now more than ever.

Our work has only just begun. Establishing Southwest Strong was the first step – an important step that gives us the vehicle we can use to begin to positively impact our small businesses. What happens next will determine how successful we are at helping our business community thrive in Southwest Philadelphia.

That’s why I’m excited to announce our first major initiative to offer financial relief to the community’s small businesses, many of which have been through the most challenging year of their existence.

Beginning April 2, small businesses in three Southwest ZIP codes – 19142, 19143 and 19153 — will be able to apply for grants of between $5,000 and $15,000 they can use to comply with COVID-19 safety guidelines, hire residents of the community, cover operating costs or pay for façade improvements. This grants program for small businesses is funded by M&T Bank, which plans to give $250,000 to the community’s small businesses this year.

To be clear, these are grants – not loans. M&T is Philadelphia’s largest small-business lender and believes that small businesses are the fabric of our communities. Their success is vital to the success of our communities – particularly in Southwest Philadelphia, where we know many minority business owners struggle to access capital or secure traditional financing for their enterprise.

Southwest Strong is playing a leading role in the new grants program. The association will help to identify and select grant recipients, and we’ve already helped establish eligibility guidelines for small businesses interested in applying. In addition to the ZIP code restrictions previously mentioned, eligible businesses must have been in operation since at least Jan. 1, 2019, and generate annual revenue of $500,000 or fewer.

Anyone interested in applying for a grant can find the application on the Southwest Strong website – www.southweststrong.com – or ask for it at any of these three locations:

  • M&T Bank’s Southwest Philadelphia branch located at 6301 Woodland Ave.;
  • African Cultural Alliance of North America’s offices at 5530 Chester Ave.; or,
  • Southwest Community Development Corp. at 6328 Paschall Ave.

Grant applications and other necessary documentation must be submitted by April 30 to be eligible.

If you need help completing the grant application or have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me at pstackfield@mtb.com or stop by the M&T Bank branch on Woodland Avenue and ask for me.

We know this grants program could be a catalyst for change for small businesses in the Southwest district. We know this is a unique opportunity to help close financial inequity gaps that have hindered minority-owned businesses for generations.

We want to make sure you know how Southwest Strong can help you achieve your business goals.

Preston Stackfield is branch manager at M&T Bank’s Woodland Avenue branch and a founding member of Southwest Strong. He can be reached at pstackfield@mtb.com.

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