New Fund Helps Small Builders Weather the Coronavirus Storm

A $350,000 commitment from Brandywine Realty Trust funds The Enterprise Center's loan program to help small and minority-owned construction firms stay afloat while they sit idle.

construction workers on a project

With very few exceptions, the construction industry is cooling its heels in Pennsylvania thanks to a mandatory business shutdown. A new loan program will help small firms get ready to return from the sidelines. | Photo: Hill Street Studios via Getty Images

The effort to blunt the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus has not only put the economy in a coma but also threatened the very survival of tens of thousands of small businesses nationwide. Some of those businesses are construction firms, which offer family-sustaining jobs and paths to prosperity for many without college degrees.

Within the Pennsylvania construction industry, smaller firms, especially those headed by women and minorities, face some of the greatest threats to their survival as a result of the shutdown of construction activity statewide. Last Thursday, the Philadelphia region’s largest commercial landlord and a West Philadelphia economic-development organization got together to offer those companies a lifeline.

Brandywine Realty Trust announced last Thursday (April 2nd) that it was committing $350,000 to a loan program The Enterprise Center (TEC) will administer aimed at helping minority-owned, women-owned and small construction and construction-related businesses in Philadelphia meet their expenses and prepare for the resumption of activity after the COVID restrictions are lifted.

The Grow Philadelphia Small Business COVID-19 Resilience Fund is an extension of a larger loan program Brandywine and TEC have partnered on for several years. Both are part of Brandywine’s promise to engage more deeply with the West Philadelphia community when it began work on Schuylkill Yards.

A Brandywine representative explained that where the original Grow Philadelphia Capital Initiative provides seed money to launch new small businesses, the Resilience Fund seeks to help those businesses survive the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

The representative said the fund ensures that businesses that often find it harder to raise working capital have easy access to funds: “There are lots of funds and grants that offer recovery money in this city, but how those funds will be allocated remains to be seen. Often, small and minority-owned businesses are the last to see that money.”

The terms of the loans are the same as those offered by the Capital Initiative: individual businesses can apply for below-market-rate loans of up to $50,000 for periods ranging from six to 24 months.

“Small and local businesses are the lifeblood of our community. Not a single individual or business isn’t feeling the impact of this global crisis, but we know our neighboring small businesses are enduring some of the greatest pain of all,” Jerry Sweeney, president and CEO of Brandywine, said in a news release. “The Enterprise Center has proven to be a dedicated and powerful resource in helping to create new realities for minority entrepreneurs, and we are happy to play a small role in helping these businesses weather this challenging time and emerge stronger than ever. Hopefully, they will be working on some of our projects in no time.”

“This Resilience Fund will quite literally keep small and local businesses in our community afloat during this challenging time, strengthening the viability of their future and the well-being of their employees,” Della Clark, president of TEC, said in the same release.

Businesses interested in learning more about the loan program or applying for loans can start at the Grow Philadelphia Capital Initiative page on the Enterprise Center website.