JPMorgan Chase supports local groups to create jobs and small business opportunities
A $5 million investment from JPMorgan Chase has allowed multiple New Orleans organizations to join together to scale the impact of planned infrastructure investments and growth of the local economy.
In 2020, New Orleans was one of seven cities to receive a philanthropic commitment which catalyzed increased economic activity and opportunity associated with blue-green infrastructure, an approach to improve water management and alleviate flooding issues. Funded programs include workforce training to prepare youth and adults for jobs in the water management sector, support for small businesses to ensure they have equal opportunities in procurement processes and contract opportunities, as well as designs for policy improvements.
This investment enabled leaders to take a long-term, collaborative view of the opportunity to create a more inclusive local economy. The New Orleans Business Alliance and YouthForce NOLA have led the efforts alongside the City of New Orleans, Thrive NOLA, and The Water Collaborative, and in collaboration with numerous agencies, nonprofits, higher education institutions and more.
“Before this grant, some of this work was being done, but it was very much a siloed effort,” said Alexis Kyman, senior director of project management at the New Orleans Business Alliance. “This grant has allowed us to open doors for conversations to happen and fill gaps. That would not have happened without this grant.”
That interest in collaboration and partnership has catalyzed the activation of underutilized resources, such as the discovery of an unused state-of-the-art greenhouse in the city. Leaders within the collaborative are now planning to use the facility to provide jobs and skills training in water management and flood mitigation
“This collaborative joins JPMorgan Chase in our commitment to create an inclusive economy, helping to eliminate barriers and provide equitable access to opportunity for more people,” said Victoria Adams Phipps, who leads JPMorgan Chase’s Corporate Responsibility initiatives for Louisiana. “This work will continue well beyond our investment and create meaningful and lasting change in our community.”
Numerous tangible impacts are now resulting from the grant. To date, 319 people have been enrolled in workforce training at institutions like Delgado Community College, which now offers a heavy machinery certification to train people to operate the equipment used in infrastructure projects. Across the collaborative’s programs, 112 people have been placed into full-time employment and 91 small businesses have been directly assisted.
Cate Swinburn, president of YouthForce NOLA, said the involvement of the city’s young people is crucial to resolving its water issues, and noted that many have an interest in the topic. The teens who now live in New Orleans were born shortly before or after Hurricane Katrina and have continued to see how flooding impacts their families and lifestyles.
“More than any other generation, they know about our city’s challenging relationship with water,” Swinburn said. “The opportunity for them to build skills and relationships and use them to improve the city is huge for them and something our young people have an emotional connection to. We have a lot of excitement from them to be a part of the solution.”
Although some initiatives were put on hold during the pandemic, Swinburn said YouthForce NOLA is continuing to work with local business leaders to help connect them with youth. Site visits, internships and discussions with infrastructure companies are all ways that YouthForce NOLA is working to connect the industry with the next generation.
Swinburn said it has been particularly heartening to see New Orleans youth learn about the various job opportunities in blue-green infrastructure. While they were familiar with outward construction, they have discovered other opportunities in STEM-related areas like chemistry, software development, and coding.
With such a strong start, there is an increasing enthusiasm that the conversations, collaborations, programs, and planned projects will lead to career opportunity and business growth for participants.
This work is part of JPMorgan Chase’s broader commitments to increase economic opportunity, which include the firm’s $30 billion commitment to advance racial equity and bring more opportunity to diverse and underserved communities. Phipps noted that JPMorgan Chase is working to help more Black and Hispanic families in New Orleans achieve affordable and sustainable homeownership, and is also working with entrepreneurs of color to launch and grow their businesses.
“True economic health means eliminating barriers and providing equitable access to opportunity for all,” Phipps said. “JPMorgan Chase is leaning into the opportunity to help our community become a place where everyone has a chance to thrive.”