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Commitment to Community Thought Leadership

Entrepreneurship in Sweet Auburn Historic District Advances Racial Equality and Economic Opportunity

By Wendy Stewart, President of Bank of America Atlanta

Successful entrepreneurs are a signal of a healthy economy, and by definition take on financial risks in the hope of profit. But the role of an entrepreneur comes with many challenges – from financing, logistics and competition, to the many unknowns associated with running an enterprise. As we have seen in the past year, out-of-the-box thinking and responsible growth are necessary for creating sustainable and meaningful change in communities.

Bank of America works with many Atlanta entrepreneurs to help increase access to capital, consulting and mentorship to build businesses that drive economic growth. Building upon our commitment to create more economic opportunity, generate jobs and advance racial equity in Atlanta, we are partnering with Sweet Auburn Works (SAW) to enhance resiliency and sustainability in a region of Atlanta that is both historically significant and historically underserved.

SAW is a nonprofit dedicated to the revitalization of the Sweet Auburn Historic District, a two-mile corridor of Auburn Avenue known as “the cradle of civil rights.” The District was the commercial, cultural and spiritual center for Black communities in Atlanta prior to the Civil Rights Movement, housing the city’s first Black-owned office and first Black-owned daily newspaper, and is most commonly known as the birthplace of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

SAW’s new Walking with Heroes campaign accelerates the community’s vision for investments in real estate, infrastructure and business development in the Sweet Auburn area, paving the way for a renewed spirit of economic vibrancy. The plans include the “Hero Walk,” which will create a lasting impact for residents and visitors and strengthen the District’s revitalization. The one-mile Hero Walk connects the Atlanta BeltLine Eastside Trail and John Lewis Freedom Parkway with Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park and Historic Oakland Cemetery.

Our partnership with SAW’s Retail Accelerator Fund will provide $500,000 in grant funding for local entrepreneurs of color and equitable economic revitalization, as part of Bank of America’s $1.25 billion, five-year commitment to advance racial equality and economic opportunity, which includes support to minority entrepreneurs.

Specifically, the Retail Accelerator Fund will provide:

  • Critical business improvements, including architectural and design buildouts
  • Access to consulting and design professionals to implement forward-thinking retail concepts
  • SAW staff to assist with selecting real estate, leveraging city resources, and providing programmatic support
  • Networking, mentorships, technical assistance and education to ensure their businesses remain sustainable throughout their entrepreneurship journey
  • Diversification of retail offerings
  • Create a more vibrant ecosystem throughout the district

With over 100 years of history in Atlanta, Bank of America’s community-centered approach remains the same, as our partnership and support of revitalization in Sweet Auburn began in the 1990s with single-family homes. Today, we look at continuing our legacy addressing critical issues like entrepreneurship that ensure opportunities for our community are within reach.


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