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December 02 2014

Mayor Alvin Brown and Operation HOPE Announce Jacksonsville 2020 and Unveil Initiative for Economic Empowerment

Project 5117 Provides Opportunities to Strengthen Jacksonville Economy

JACKSONVILLE, FL, Dec. 2, 2014 To empower Jacksonville residents and businesses, Mayor Alvin Brown and the national nonprofit Operation HOPE announced today the launch of a new public-private initiative to expand economic opportunities in Jacksonville neighborhoods. 

As a first step, Operation HOPE will offer neighborhood-based training and support to Jacksonville small business owners and entrepreneurs, including opportunities to access financing and improve credit worthiness through a better knowledge of money management.

Operation HOPE recently secured an EDA grant of $2.5 million from the U.S. Department of Commerce to expand the HOPE Inside Small Business Empowerment Initiative (SBEI) in nine cities across the United States, including Jacksonville.  The funding will be used for community-focused programs that teach the basics of banking, budgeting and borrowing,  as well as introductory small business workshops, comprehensive twelve-week entrepreneurial training program courses, and individualized technical assistance, including access to capital and adult financial services credit and money management counseling.

“We are excited to welcome Operation HOPE and its financial empowerment model to Jacksonville,” said Mayor Alvin Brown.  “This new public-private partnership will build on our current efforts to promote entrepreneurship, job creation and neighborhood economic vitality.  It will strengthen our economy and advance our vision of Jacksonville as a city of opportunity for all.”

HOPE Inside is a component of Operation HOPE’s Project 5117, which focuses on strengthening the economy by empowering youth and people who earn less than $50,000 a year. Project 5117 includes a broad range of free neighborhood-based financial education services such as homeownership counseling, credit card debt management, helping people raise their credit scores to 700, financial literacy education for young people and entrepreneurship training and support.

“Working with partners like the City of Jacksonville, Project 5117 aims to provide a full range of tools, information, access, and personal guidance for struggling small business owners, and aspiring entrepreneurs and those who wish to raise improve their financial acuity.” said John Hope Bryant Operation HOPE Founder and CEO. “It is our vision for the residents of Jacksonville, to have access to a HOPE Inside within several banks as well as highly visited retail space, to help them move up the financial ladder to economic freedom and success.”

Improving credit scores and financial literacy is key to the work JAX Chamber is doing with JAX Bridges, a program designed to get small businesses connected to work with large corporations, said Carlton Robinson, senior director of the Chamber’s Entrepreneurial Growth Division.

“Small and emerging business may only get one shot with a large company and our goal is to make sure they are prepared to capitalize once they earn the opportunity,” Robinson said. “Sound business finance begins with sound personal finance and we appreciate Operation HOPE choosing to invest its time and resources in Jacksonville to improve the overall financial health of our community.”

Mayor Brown said the new partnership with Operation HOPE builds on the City of Jacksonville’s ongoing efforts to promote entrepreneurship and job creation.  These include: Business Builder, which connects entrepreneurs with services to help them succeed; the Jacksonville Small and Emerging Business program, which works to expand procurement and contracting opportunities with the City; and the recently-announced Renew Jax initiative, which includes a focus on revitalizing neighborhood commercial corridors.

The City has also re-activated the Northwest Jacksonville Economic Development Fund to support neighborhood entrepreneurs and small businesses. In addition, the City is a partner with JAX Chamber on its new JAX Bridges program that helps small companies do business with larger companies and government agencies. Mayor Brown serves as the Honorary Chair of Wi$e Money Week, a public-private partnership that features a week-long series of financial education events and classes every May throughout the community. 

Mayor Brown added that he looks forward to opportunities to expand the partnership with Operation HOPE to include other financial education activities through Project 5117.

The next step for Project 5117 is to identify local partners.  Operation HOPE aims to roll out the program in Jacksonville beginning in the first quarter of 2015.

Since 1992, Operation HOPE has been providing financial dignity and economic empowerment to over 2 million individuals worldwide. Through its work, HOPE turns check-cashing customers into banking customers, renters into homeowners, and small business dreamers into small business owners and minimum wage workers into living wage consumers.  Project 5117 is supported by a national alliance with the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), and with the ongoing support of the American Bankers Association and Protective Life.