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City Of Hope

Program helps inner-city residents become business owners.

A project aiming to assist redevelopment, alleviate unemployment and diversify retail availability in forgotten urban communities has finally arrived. The Neighborhood Franchise Project (NFP), developed by Bankers Trust Co., the Ford Foundation and the Local Initiatives Support Corp. (LISC), is attracting well-known retail franchisors to the potentially profitable inner-city markets of New York City.

By acquiring market data, corporations like LISC provide facts and figures to Community Development Corporations (CDCs), which in turn recruit business-savvy community residents to purchase and operate the franchises. Through a prequalification process, LISC looks at a wide array of candidates, conducts interviews, assesses financial statements, and then coordinates contacts between franchisors and franchisees.

"We try to bring the players and participants together--it's a kind of matchmaking process," says Angela Brown, LISC's pro- gram director of jobs and income. Together with Bankers Trust, LISC then provides technical assistance and low-cost financing, offering as much as 80 percent of the franchise's unit costs to qualifying franchisees.

Since the September opening of Sterling Optical in Harlem, the NFP has additional transactions in progress. AlphaGraphics Printshops, The Athlete's Foot, Ponderosa Steakhouses and 1(800)-Flowers are just a few of the retail franchisors the NFP anticipates working with. By attracting a mix of reputable franchises providing high-quality services and goods, the NFP intends to ignite a revitalization of the underserved neighborhoods, create jobs and make franchise opportunities available to talented denizens of the community. For more information, contact LISC's Angela Brown at (212) 455-9331 or via e-mail at abrown@liscnet.org

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This article was originally published in the April 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: City Of Hope.

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