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The St. Louis Arch

Category: Economic Development

Cost-Free, Harvard-Based Business Education Available to St. Louis-Area Business Owners

Application process underway as Regions Bank and St. Louis Regional Chamber bring Inner City Capital Connections program to St. Louis

Applications are currently being accepted for a cost-free education program that will connect business owners with resources designed to help grow their companies.

The program is called Inner City Capital Connections (ICCC). ICCC provides business education, marketing assistance and one-on-one coaching for businesses that are growth oriented and have a presence in urban or economically underserved areas.

Regions Bank and the St. Louis Regional Chamber are providing financial support so ICCC can offer these services at no cost to participants. Business owners in urban or underserved areas throughout the St. Louis area – and the Midwest region – are encouraged to apply.

Inner City Capital Connections (ICCC)
Inner City Capital Connections (ICCC)

ICCC will culminate in St. Louis with an all-day business education conference this fall. The conference will feature Harvard Business School professor Steven Rogers and other leading educators. Financial and business experts from Regions and other leading companies will also provide coaching support to business owners.

“We see a need in St. Louis for small business growth, and we’ve had a number of challenges, particularly in our underserved communities, over the last several years,” said Mike Hart, Midwest Area President for Regions Bank. “This is a tool and a program that we think can help bring vibrancy back into that community and give access to information, expertise and capital that small businesses need.”

“There is great opportunity in St. Louis,” added Joe Reagan, President and CEO of the St. Louis Regional Chamber. “We want to create jobs. We want to create investment. We want to create prosperity throughout our entire community.”

“There are so many wonderful businesses in the inner city that are competitive, that are growing, that have great futures,” Reagan pointed out. The key, he said, is for business owners to utilize expertise and guidance that can help them strengthen their business plans and grow in a way that reaches more customers, creates more jobs and further enhances the St. Louis area.

Steve Grossman, CEO of the nonprofit Initiative for a Competitive Inner City, which established ICCC, visited St. Louis to meet with civic leaders and share the vision for this fall’s main ICCC St. Louis event.

“It changes people’s lives by offering them a 40-hour mini MBA on steroids,” Grossman said. “It’s going to be intense. It’s going to be rewarding. It’s going to be amazing.”

Business owners can learn more about ICCC and the program’s qualifications on the ICCC website. Businesses that would like to participate can then apply by filling out an online application. Applications are due Aug. 31. ICCC will review applications based on program criteria and select businesses to take part.

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ICCC Director Hyacinth Vassell said that since ICCC started in 2005, representatives of more than 800 businesses have participated in ICCC programs in major cities across the country. Those businesses have since raised more than $1.3 billion in capital to grow their companies – while creating nearly 11,000 jobs.

Vassell said the program offers business owners an opportunity to enrich their skills and develop a plan to achieve long-term success.

“They’ll have a better understanding of how to grow their business more effectively,” Vassell said. “They will understand what it means to be ‘lendable.’ They will be more intentional about their growth. They will be more thoughtful about capital infusion. So we’ll be seeing a lot more businesses that are going to be creating more jobs and building on their growth.”

Hart reiterated the program is free. All business owners need to do at this point is apply.

“The bottom line is this brings valuable resources directly to business owners,” Hart said. “It’s available to qualified business owners who can make it to St. Louis to attend, not just St. Louis-based businesses. The conference is offered at no cost. So there’s no reason not to apply.”

“The application deadline of Aug. 31 will be here soon, and we’re already seeing strong interest in the program,” Hart concluded. “So we encourage companies to apply early.”