Scale Up Milwaukee launches effort to narrow wealth gap

Scale Up Milwaukee is launching a new program called Rising Tide aimed at expanding opportunities, driving revenue growth and increasing wealth among minority business owners.

SUM, a Greater Milwaukee Committee initiative, announced today it has received a $430,000 grant from the social justice-focused Surdna Foundation for Rising Tide, and last year got $175,000 from Surdna to pilot the program.

According to a Pew Research Center analysis of government data, income gaps have persisted for decades across U.S. racial and ethnic groups. “In 2016, blacks at the 90th percentile of their distribution earned 68% as much as whites at their 90th percentile, the same as in 1970,” Pew found.

White family networks frequently hold more generational wealth than black and Latino family networks, which has created a gap in the transition of wealth that is felt among the business owners with which SUM works, said Elmer Moore, executive director of SUM.

“The fundamental quest was about the gap between the relative wealth between these different communities,” Moore said. “What we were interested in was the fact that that’s playing out even in business owners with relatively similar revenues and relatively similar-sized businesses. So this is a way to begin to address that.”

With the introduction of Rising Tide, SUM plans to analyze assets, as well as resources and networks available to business owners to help narrow the gap. For example, the program could assess estate plans and insurance, he said.

“Maybe most importantly, it includes an intention to transmit some wealth across generations,” Moore said. “We still feel that we are iterating on the model currently.”

SUM will host one cohort of Rising Tide per year to start, and plans to keep the participants private, he said.

“We absolutely see this as being something that we expand because we’re really motivated to change the state of family wealth and generational wealth in black and brown communities,” Moore said.

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