Irvine awards $15 million for economic development, racial equity

Irvine awards $15 million for economic development, racial equity

The Central Valley Community Foundation has announced a grant of more than $15 million from the James Irvine Foundation in support of economic development, community improvement, and efforts to address systemic barriers to racial equity in Fresno, California. 

The funding will support the Fresno DRIVE (Developing the Region's Inclusive & Vibrant Economy) Initiative, a ten-year community investment plan that calls for nearly $4.2 billion in public, private, and philanthropic investments in three areas: economic development, human capital, and neighborhood revitalization. With approximately 80 percent of the funds designated for local nonprofits, the grant will focus on efforts to address systemic barriers to economic opportunity, strengthen community engagement and neighborhood leadership, and advance workforce and small business development, business recruitment, and wealth creation in low-income neighborhoods. 

Among other things, the grant is expected to support the creation of nearly seventeen hundred jobs and three hundred and fifty internships, the growth of more than a hundred and fifty small businesses owned by women and people of color, and the engagement of more than a thousand residents annually in improving the conditions of low-opportunity neighborhoods.

"We are at a critical juncture in American history and there has never been a better time for an initiative like DRIVE," said Tara Lynn Gray, president and CEO of the Fresno Metro Black Chamber of Commerce. "If we get this right, life for small business owners, particularly women and people of color, will be forever changed for the better. DRIVE is a huge vision backed by solid data and business planning and lots of moving parts, but it is glued together by the fierce commitment of the community-based organizations and institutions that dared to believe in it and invest their time, resources, and very souls in this effort. We have a real shot at creating a new way to do business here with equity [and] inclusion, and advantage economic mobility for the most vulnerable people in our community. Who doesn't want that kind of success?" 

"We are grateful to the Central Valley Community Foundation for its connection to local Fresno leaders and communities, and we are thrilled to support efforts to improve economic mobility and job creation in Fresno through the DRIVE initiative," said Irvine Foundation president and CEO Don Howard. "Despite the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, we remain optimistic that diverse community leaders, elected officials, employers, and worker organizers, can, together, rebuild local economies that work for all residents."

"The 'Fresno DRIVE Initiative' awarded a $15,000,000 grant from the James Irvine Foundation." Central Valley Community Foundation press release 06/22/2020.