J Lohr Chardonnay. Decadent gumbo. Light laughter. Sparkling energy.
The high energy in the room was undeniable as the attendees gathered into the posh, yet inclusive, Picán Restaurant. Picán never ceases to impress its guests; and with the movers and shakers of the Oakland business world in attendance, yesterday's private event was no exception.
Politicians and policy influencers, Mayor Jean Quan, District 3 Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney, Oakland Business Development Center's (OBDC) President Jacob Singer, Lake Merritt/Uptown District Manager Steve Snider. Business owners, Cortt Dunlap of Awaken Cafe, the founders of HUB Oakland, Amy and Chris Hillyard of Farley's Coffee, and other key players in the development of Oakland's economy, came out to hear the results of OBDC's research about the Broadway Corridor.
OBDC Board Member, Wendell Jones II, moderated the event as policy makers and entrepreneurs took to the stage to announce the exciting opportunities on the horizon for one of Oakland's most profitable areas.
The Broadway Corridor is the commercial and cultural heart of the East Bay. It spans 3.25 miles from Jack London Square to the base of the Oakland Hills. The area has experienced a resurgence of activity, largely due in part to a $200,000 contribution from the Citi Community Development Center. In partnership with OBDC, HUD Section 108 Business Loans, and the SBA Community Advantage Loan program, the area has seen the creation of 300 new jobs and 30 new businesses.
Over the past 18 months, $4 million in small business loans have been originated. Another $11 million will be available for the continuation of the program over the next two years.
OBDC shared the results of their research to determine which steps should be taken in order to take the area to the next step. The influx of "young urbanites," between the ages of 20-30, with a love for fabulous food establishments and engaging cultural entertainment options, has helped to propel the businesses to wild success. The area is also home to one of the largest Auto Rows in the city, which has aided the increase in revenues.
However, there is still a lot of work to do. While the official unemployment rate for Oakland stands at 14.4%, the rate for low-to-moderate income community members is a troubling 30%. With the lack of major retailers in the area, local businesses and families seeking employment suffer. And although the auto dealerships have rebounded back from the recession, their lack of visibility from the freeway continues to hinder their earning potential. OBDC and the District addressed their plans to help change these current situations.
The dynamic District 3 Councilmember, Lynette Gibson McElhaney, spoke about how she is proud of the success of the Broadway Corridor and is excited for its future. A place where people of all walks of life can feel comfortable, welcomed and a part of the prosperous community.
OBDC, which has successfully funded hundreds of loans over the last decade, will be at the forefront of this renaissance. Continuing to work with policy makers, OBDC is known for making the dreams of entrepreneurs come true.
In fact, the very resturant that hosted the affair benefitted from OBDC. The always dapper and exceptionally gracious, Micheal Leblanc, was a "corporate guy" with "no restaurant experience and no chef" when he dreamt up the idea of Picán; an upscale California infused Southern restaurant. OBDC took a risk and assisted Leblanc with securing the funds needed to launch the establishment.
Five years later, Picán is now the highlight of the Broadway Corridor's Uptown cultural district and a trendy spot for power lunches and fine dining. And the location chosen to host the announcement of BIG news for Oakland's bright future.
The results from OBDC's research can be found HERE.
Miss Danetha is an Oakland Socialite and the Director of Publicity for the Oakland Chamber's Young Professionals Committee. She is the founder of EmeryCloud, a global financial management consultancy based in Oakland and committed to seeing Oakland's businesses succeed.
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