Formula One is investing up to $500,000 to support small business owners in Miami Gardens, where its racing events will be held for the next decade.
The organization announced the grant program last week alongside elected city officials at Hard Rock Stadium, home of the Miami Dolphins and the Miami Grand Prix, which in May became the first Formula One event held outside of Texas in years.
The program is being administered through the Community Fund of North Miami Dade, a subsidiary of the Opa-locka Community Development Corporation, which matched the Formula One contribution for a total $1 million grant sum.
That money will fund loans to small business owners and entrepreneurs throughout Miami Gardens, home to some 6,000 businesses and the largest predominantly Black municipal population in Florida.
“We are dedicated to providing access to capital to underserved businesses, and we are laser-focused on helping communities and entrepreneurs of color thrive,” Community Fund of North Miami Dade President Lia Yaffer said.
“The great thing about what we do is that we don’t just get the money out; we act as partners to the businesses that we serve and offer additional layers of support and technical assistance to help them grow.”
The Truist Foundation committed an additional $100,000 to the program to support services and to help subsidize interest rates and forgive 10% of some loans, said Willie Logan, president of the Opa-Locka Community Development Corporation.
“One of the things we’re hoping we can demonstrate is that if you have those types of flexibilities and options — and particularly if you have access to capital — then businesses will fare much better than if they can only borrow money and have a standard interest rate,” he told Florida Politics.
While there are no rules as to how much an applying company will be able to get through the program, Logan said his group believes the “sweet spot” is between $25,000 and $125,000 per loan.
“And (while) the loan will replenish, we’re also absolutely convinced that not only will Formula One continue to contribute to this fund if it’s successful, but we also expect other partners such as Truist and other banks to join this effort,” he said.
“We don’t see this as a one-off situation where half a million dollars is invested and it’s just going to go for one round. No, we see this as a revolving loan fund that will be here forever.”
Applying businesses can expect to be treated well and supported through the process, said local entrepreneur Sherronda Daye. Dye is a former government worker who runs three small businesses and benefited from prior loan funds and help from the Community Fund of North Miami Dade.
As a result of the funding and technical assistance she got through the organization, Daye said she was able to grow her business and hire more people.
“The interaction I had with the staff people (there) over the years has been nothing but super, extremely supportive, responsive,” she said.
“If they don’t have an in-house resource, (they) have no problem helping you find a potential resource. A leopard doesn’t change its stripes, for the good or for the bad, and they’ve been consistently this way with me for the past four years.”
In the leadup to the Hard Rock Stadium’s confirmation as the home to Formula One in Miami-Dade County, Miami Gardens residents came out in droves at County Hall to oppose the decision. They said the noise would be too loud and potentially harmful, as would emissions from the vehicles.
Even after the Miami-Dade Commission voted against legislation that would have blocked the Miami Gardens from consideration, the Commissioner representing the city at the time, Barbara Jordan, vowed the “fight is not over” and warned Formula One of bad publicity and legal action.
Last year, to ease tensions, the race organizers committed to providing $5 million over 10 years to help the community.
After the race took place this year, some residents who filed a lawsuit to stop the event dropped their complaint after learning the noise, while “disturbing,” was not loud enough to threaten hearing loss.
For many in the city, the Miami Grand Prix “turned out to be a great event,” Miami Gardens Mayor Rodney Harris said.
“It was very positive,” he said. “And the things we talked about doing in the community, they were willing to do.”
There’s more coming, he added. “We haven’t really rolled out everything Formula One is going to do,” he said.
“There are other things that will probably come down the pike to build small businesses, and it’s going to be an exciting time. It’s just wonderful when organizations can become partners with communities, and that’s the most important thing.”