U.S. Department of Commerce Invests $3 Million to Help Create Local Entrepreneurship Center, Russell Family Kicks Off Facility Renovations

ATLANTA — U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Jay Williams and the Minority Business Development Agency’s National Director Alejandra Y. Castillo joined the family of H.J. Russell earlier today to announce a new partnership and discuss renovations for the Russell Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (RCIE). The 40,000-square-foot facility, located in the same building as the former headquarters of H.J. Russell & Company at 504 Fair Street on Atlanta’s west side, will provide space to more than 100 emerging entrepreneurial companies. The Russell family, local business leaders and elected officials and representatives, joined Commerce Department officials for the announcement.

In November 2016, RCIE received $3 million from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) to fund the design and renovation of the existing building to house the center. The funding is part of 22 awards totaling $14.4 million from EDA to increase economic activity in the nation’s high-poverty urban, rural, and tribal communities. According to grantee estimates, the center will help create 50 new jobs and save 175 jobs.

“Ensuring that our communities and regions have the tools needed to support businesses and create jobs is critical to our country’s competitiveness,” said EDA’s Assistant Secretary Williams. “I applaud the Russell family and the city of Atlanta for their strong commitment in support of local entrepreneurs and for helping to build a brighter future for the people of this great city.”

Since 2008, EDA has invested nearly $68 million to support 152 projects/applicants in the state of Georgia. These projects have helped to create/save an estimated 13,798 jobs and generate about $3.7 billion in private investment.

U.S. Department of Commerce’s Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) has also worked closely with RCIE to share the agency’s expertise on developing programs and initiatives to support minority business enterprises such as the Inclusive Innovation Initiative (I3).

“The opening of this center is a significant step in not only growing the pipeline of innovation-driven entrepreneurs, but also in developing strategic partnerships that will benefit our minority business communities,” said Alejandra Y. Castillo, MBDA National Director. “We need even more of these centers across the nation to help prepare the next generation of minority entrepreneurs and innovators for success in the 21st century economy.”

RCIE was founded by the family of the late Herman J. Russell, an Atlanta entrepreneur and philanthropist, to honor his legacy. The center will serve as a collaborative, co-working ecosystem connecting Atlanta’s top entrepreneurs from communities of color and other underrepresented communities to business resources, access to capital and corporate partners. RCIE is also located near several of Atlanta’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

“We envision the Russell Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship becoming a supportive community – one that will serve as a visible and inclusive avenue for all individuals to receive the mentoring, investment, and inspiration they need to launch a thriving business,” said H. Jerome Russell, RCIE Founder and Board Member. “We want to eliminate barriers to all, from college students with a brilliant business idea to the retired person launching their next passion in life. We believe RCIE will equalize the playing field in Atlanta and beyond by helping minority entrepreneurs in particular, overcome barriers to entering the marketplace.”

Once completed, the newly designed and renovated space will support long-term disaster recovery efforts by adding economic resiliency to the city of Atlanta through increased economic diversification.

“With the help of the $3 million matching grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce, we are one step closer to being able to create a unique entrepreneur ecosystem that works in synergy with the diversity of Atlanta,” said Donata Russell Ross, founder, board member, RCIE.

About the Economic Development Administration
The mission of the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) is to lead the federal economic development agenda by promoting competitiveness and preparing the nation's regions for growth and success in the worldwide economy. An agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce, EDA makes investments in economically distressed communities in order to create jobs for U.S. workers, promote American innovation, and accelerate long-term sustainable economic growth. To learn more about EDA, visit www.eda.gov.

About the Minority Business Development Agency
MBDA, www.mbda.gov, is the only Federal agency dedicated to the growth and global competitiveness of U.S. minority-owned businesses. Our programs and services better equip minority-owned firms to create jobs, build scale and capacity, increase revenues and expand regionally, nationally and internationally. Services are provided through a network of MBDA Business Centers. After 47 years of service, MBDA continues to be a dedicated strategic partner to all U.S. minority-owned businesses, committed to providing programs and services that build size, scale and capacity through access to capital, contracts and markets. Follow us on Twitter @usmbda.

About the Russell Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship
The Russell Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (RCIE) is designed to connect the next generation of minority entrepreneurs to the tools and relationships it needs to turn dreams into reality. A 40,000 square-foot world-class business incubator located in Atlanta’s historic Castleberry Hill, RCIE is a collaborative, co-working ecosystem that connects a customized curriculum, corporate experience and venture capital assets with Atlanta’s top talent from communities of color. www.rcie.co.