The launch of Fund II last fall greatly expanded BII’s geographic reach: from Greater Boston and the Merrimack Valley, to the entire Commonwealth and across the Northeast. Now, with a new office in Springfield, BII has established a physical presence in Western Massachusetts, aiming to build stronger connections to entrepreneurs of color in the region.
On June 2, BII unveiled its new sign outside the office of the Latino Economic Development Corporation (LEDC), at 20 Fort Street, which opened in September as a resource hub for Latino-owned businesses in the region. Samalid Hogan, BII’s field building program manager, who is based in Springfield, will be the main point of contact for BII at the new office.
“We’re excited to expand our investing activity across Western Massachusetts and support the needs of entrepreneurs of color and social enterprises that are sustaining and growing the local economy,” said Betty Francisco, CEO of BII. “Our partnership with LEDC allows us to serve entrepreneurs in the region with a dedicated bilingual team that can provide direct coaching, advising, and preparation for capital investment.”
Western Massachusetts has significant and growing populations of color. The latest U.S. Census data show Hampden County, which includes Springfield, is 26.4% Latino and 11.5% Black, and both groups are disproportionately likely to live in poverty: While the overall poverty rate for the county is 15.9%, it is 33.3% for Latinos and 24.5% for Black residents. Closing the racial wealth gap is central to BII’s mission.
The partnership with LEDC provides BII with shared space and connections to dozens of small businesses and resource providers focused on serving entrepreneurs of color in Western Massachusetts. BII will expand on its technical assistance, business coaching, and pre-investment advising to businesses in the region that prioritize racial and economic justice and/or climate action.
BII unveiled its sign at a press conference June 2 that began with a welcome from LEDC Director Andrew Melendez and included remarks from state Reps. Orlando Ramos and Carlos González and Springfield City Councilors Tracye Whitfield, Kateri Walsh, Zaida Govan and Justin Hurst. Also in attendance were representatives from the Governor’s regional office, the Executive Office of Economic Development, MassDevelopment, and state Rep. Angelo Puppolo.
“Partnering with BII is a significant opportunity for Western Massachusetts businesses, as it brings together their expertise in impact investing with our mission of supporting entrepreneurs of color,” Melendez said. “Their network and resources can provide valuable support and capital to help our businesses grow and thrive. By joining forces, we can create a stronger ecosystem for economic development in our region, benefiting entrepreneurs and the wider community.”
After the press conference, BII hosted Springfield civic and business leaders for a lunch conversation at Valley Venture Mentors, an innovation hub for startups in Western Massachusetts. Members of Springfield’s business community, including the Springfield Chamber of Commerce, Springfield Black and Brown Wall Street, and the MassMutual Foundation participated in the roundtable discussion. The business leaders also tried their hand at BII’s Integrated Capital Card game, an innovative education tool that teaches community stakeholders how to use creative financial tools beyond traditional bank debt to support various social ventures.