A Wraparound Services Initiative for Marginalized Business Owners
What is Erie County Level Up?
Erie County Legislature Chairwoman April N.M. Baskin, in coordination with the county departments of Environment & Planning, Public Works, and the office of Equal Employment Opportunity has developed a new county based wraparound services initiative for business owners who come from disadvantaged backgrounds and operate a business within a low-income zip code across the Western New York region.
Why Level Up?
The Level Up initiative expands on regional and national government led efforts by including capacity based contract opportunities within the private sector market for Level Up participants.
As of today, the combined total of NYS, Buffalo and Erie County MBE certified subcontractors who provide new stadium related services and live in Erie, Niagara, or Monroe counties are less than 200 in total.
This is insufficient to meet the demands of a $1.5 billion dollar stadium construction project that has mandated MWBE post-construction utilization goals, and the stadium project is only the beginning.
Over the next several years, there will be a number of large-scale construction projects that will also have MWBE inclusion goals.
The lack of local MWBE certified subcontractors creates a cycle of industry price gouging, out-of-state contractors and a persistent struggle within communities of color to maintain sustainable businesses and develop wealth.
Erie County Level Up provides a pipeline to help disadvantaged business owners navigate countywide small business resources, and secure corporate and public contracts that meet their capacity to deliver.
Erie County is currently undergoing an MWBE Disparity Study, which will identify any underutilization of MWBEs, as well as the barriers MWBEs face in becoming a certified MWBE business.
Generational Wealth Builder Initiative
Erie County Level Up is a generational wealth building initiative designed to provide guidance to disadvantaged business owners located in Erie and neighboring counties. The goal of the Level Up initiative is to increase both MWBE certification and participation in bidding on government contracts. In collaboration with local banks, nonprofit organizations and our region’s premier private sector businesses, Level Up also secures:
- Subcontracting opportunities with major WNY corporations
- Customized business credit lines with local banks
- Corporate joint-venture mentoring
- MWBE certification mentoring
- Business sustainability services
- Business grant assistance navigation
- Business management courses
Where is Level Up?
The Erie County Level Up initiative will launch in 2024 and will be housed in the Erie County Department of Environment & Planning’s Division of Business Assistance.
How To Contact Level Up?
The Erie County Level Up initiative is currently operating its 2023 pilot phase with 50 disadvantaged business owners who registered to participate at various community workshops hosted by Chair April N.M. Baskin. The official initiative will accept a cohort of ten businesses annually beginning in 2024.
For inquiries email: LevelUp@erie.gov