VOL. 115 | NO. 101 | Tuesday, May 29, 2001
By: JENNIFER MURLEY
Seedco involvement grows in Memphis community
By JENNIFER MURLEY
The Daily News
Memphis will receive about $1.8 million over the next three to five years from a national non-profit assistance corporation dedicated to strengthening inner-city neighborhoods through physical and economic restructuring.
Although the New York-based Seedco has been actively involved in Memphis for more than five years through collaboratives with the Ford Foundation and various grant-funding projects, the organization wants to do more.
"We began a site planning process where we reviewed our activities in about 25 to 30 cities and looked at the potential for more intensive efforts," said William Grinker, Seedco president.
"The climate for change and improvements in neighborhood community-based initiatives was very strong in Memphis. We decided that would be one of our cities that we would concentrate our efforts together with local players."
The group is making similar investments in about six other cities including Tampa Bay, Fla. and New Haven, Conn.
To date, Seedco has already made two initial loans involving a $1 million community development loan fund and the new Downtown incubator project, both of which target redevelopment efforts in historically low-income communities.
By matching private contributions of $500,000, Seedco participated in the creation of the $1 million Memphis Affordable Homeownership Loan Fund to assist area neighborhood developers.
Officials at the Center for Neighborhoods said the loan fund would go toward neighborhoods in which the city is already making an investment such as Orange Mound, Greenlaw and South Memphis.
"Its great because the more resources we have from both inside the community as well as outside, we can do a better job because there is so much need," said Vernua Hanrahan, Center for Neighborhoods manager.
"We have so many square miles inside the city limits that its hard to see an impact immediately. What Seedco is bringing is not only the technical assistance but also the funds so we can leverage the dollars we have in our communities to stabilize and revitalize them."
Seedcos second funding initiative is a $500,000 gap-financing loan to Memphis Incubator Systems Inc. The incubator group plans to renovate a 60,000-square-foot abandoned warehouse located at 516 Tennessee St. to accommodate an inclusive facility that will support up to 40 high-tech businesses.
By providing basic administrative and technical networking support to participating start-up businesses, the incubator will foster Downtown job growth, as well as entrepreneurial opportunities in the local high-tech sector. The total cost of the project is expected to be about $6 million.
"Seedco will loan us the dollars against future donations, so its an extra helpful source," said Bryan Eagle, MIS Inc. chairman of the board. "We need the money today and we dont have the donations in hand today, so we need the money to continue to operate."
Future plans are currently being discussed with city officials to participate in empowering a second local incubator project, Grinker said.
The remaining $800,000 will be used for a variety of programs, including workforce training and at least one major new housing initiative. Officials were careful to note Seedco will simply fund these projects and appoint a local intermediary organization more familiar with the local scene to allocate the money.
"Our priorities are working with community-based organizations to provide and develop assets in low income communities," Grinker said. "Our major initiatives are community economic development."
Local officials have welcomed Seedcos interest in the city, Grinker said, which should make the arduous rebuilding process run a little smoother.
"The political interest and commitment is an important component, because you certainly cant do anything if youre not wanted there politically," he said. "The enthusiasm and interest of the mayors office was an important factor that translates into, Theres a real opportunity there to do some stuff, and that certainly aids the process."