By MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price
Community Solutions has been collaborating with the community to revitalize the Swift Factory building with the goal of stimulating job growth, economic development, and community health in Hartford’s North East neighborhood.
The federally funded $35 million redevelopment project, which is an initiative of the North Hartford Promise Zone, is helping rebuild the neighborhood and creating a thriving community hub that includes an incubator and rental space for chefs/restaurateurs, a new space for entrepreneurs and small business owners, and, through a collaboration with the Hartford Chamber of Commerce and HEDCO Inc., part of the future vision also includes creating a financial literacy center.
Community Solutions for Entrepreneurs
Adding the space for entrepreneurial growth expands the Swift Factory’s reach.
“I see this dynamic as a solution to much more than just the physical or structural changes that need to be made. People can internalize exactly what’s going on here and see people working for themselves and providing that example,” says John J. Thomas, Assistant Program Manager Real Estate for Community Solutions.
“Our tenants are highly screened—it’s not like we’re giving people an easy way in, but we provide a soft landing here for businesses that have struggled probably most of the time they’ve been in existence,” he adds. “That example of entrepreneurship is something new we can provide. In many cases, people would rather work for themselves—that’s much more empowering. And, people can band together and pool their capital and access resources in ways they couldn’t on their own.”
In addition, the organization will help entrepreneurs and small business owners by providing access to resources they may not otherwise have known were available.
For example, Community Solutions can apply for grants for entrepreneurs in the nonprofit realm who may need help getting into space at the Swift Factory. “There’s a social impact lens to our work. Our social impact goals are just as important as our financial goals here on the site,” emphasizes John.
“We see an opportunity to provide spaces for businesses that would enable them to come in as a startup and then create the relationship and partnerships to help them scale up,” he explains. “We’ve also identified resources we can use to engage our potential tenants and help them scale.”
Those resources include the neighborhood financial literacy center Community Solutions is building in collaboration with the Hartford Chamber of Commerce and HEDCO. “We’re seeking additional funding to bring in operators who could provide financial literacy and could connect entrepreneurs to resources, capital, and information.”