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  • Kenton Tsoodle

Operators named for new small business center

The Henrietta B. Foster Center is slated for $15 million in MAPS 4 renovations to create a small business support center within the Innovation District to accelerate small business growth and improve economic mobility. Last week, the MAPS 4 Oversight Committee approved an operating agreement with a consortium of local community groups that will operate the center.

Metro Technology Centers, Northeast OKC Renaissance Inc., the Small Business Development Center and Progress OKC formed the consortium to provide services at the H.B. Foster Center for Northeast Small Business Development and Entrepreneurship. The group’s complementary services will create a powerful asset for small businesses, with particular emphasis on minority-owned small businesses.

The primary goal of the consortium is to achieve parity for minority-owned businesses across Oklahoma City by collaborating to build a more connected, innovative and inclusive small business ecosystem.

The Foster Center will be a multiservice destination where small business owners and entrepreneurs can find advice, assistance and consultation in areas related to startup and growth. It will provide a holistic and responsive approach to transforming Oklahoma City’s business ecosystem through workshops and trainings, technical assistance, tiered funding resources, strategic connections, English language learners assistance as well as consulting and acceleration. Additionally, the center will offer storefronts and incubator space for businesses looking for physical space.

Operations of the Foster Center will be overseen by a board of directors made up of community leaders and the leaders from each of the consortium partners. The partners are creating a business plan to begin offering collaborative services by the second quarter of 2023, even before center renovations begin during the third quarter.

The Henrietta B. Foster Center was originally built in 1951 as an eastside YMCA. Concerned about the deterioration she saw in her neighborhood, Henrietta Beasley Foster, a librarian at Douglass High School and Moon Junior High, formed the Harrison-Walnut Neighborhood Association in 1970. Foster was the leader in saving the YMCA from destruction. She died Nov. 8, 1978, and six days later, the Oklahoma City Council renamed the building the Henrietta B. Foster Multipurpose Center.

The new small business development center will accelerate small businesses; help entrepreneurs find the resources and help they need to start, grow and succeed; and will be an incredible step in removing barriers for minority businesses.

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