After COVID response, Brew City Match program to return to former model

The intersection of Cesar E. Chavez Drive, Greenfield and Muskego avenues in Milwaukee. (Photo: Jon Elliott)

After changing its approach to provide emergency grants for entrepreneurs during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Brew City Match program is returning to its original model.

The program, which launched in 2019 with a $3.5 million grant from the JPMorgan Chase Foundation, is designed to catalyze small business growth in neighborhoods surrounding downtown Milwaukee by providing access to financing and technical support and matching qualifying businesses with vacant properties.

After the pandemic’s onset last year, the program instead began offering $1,200 grants and 0% interest loans to small businesses located in Milwaukee’s Cesar Chavez Drive, Historic King Drive, Near West Side and North Avenue/Fond du Lac Marketplace business improvement districts and neighborhoods to help them weather the disruptions and mandatory closures.

Program organizers on Monday announced it is relaunching with a streamlined application process now through Dec. 1 to pair small businesses with financial and technical resources.

In its first three rounds, Brew City Match has provided over 100 entrepreneurs like Jimmy John Shark with small business technical assistance, more than $110,000 in small business grants and more than $600,000 in commercial property improvement grants, which helped leverage more than $2.3 million in commercial property improvement projects.

Businesses previously awarded funding from the program include Antonio Butts of Walnut Way Conservation Corp., JCP Construction for its Legacy project, Robert Brox of Fit4YouMKE Marketplace, among many others.

“Brew City Match is about supporting entrepreneurs while creating vibrant commercial corridors to build a more inclusive local economy” said Celia Benton, program officer at LISC Milwaukee, a program partner. “We look forward to supporting former winners and meeting the next round of applicants.”

Applications from entrepreneurs and building owners are now being accepted through Dec. 1. An online information session will be held on Nov. 9 from 6-7 p.m.

Participants are expected to be announced at a Brew City Match winner’s alumni event in January 2022.

Brew City Match program partners include LISC, the City of Milwaukee, Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corp., Hmong Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce, Legacy Redevelopment Corp., Greater Milwaukee Committee/Scale Up Milwaukee, Milwaukee Economic Development Corp., Clarke Square Neighborhood Association, RiverWorks Development Corp., and the King Drive, North Ave/Fond du Lac Marketplace, Near West Side, and Historic Mitchell business improvement districts.

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