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Launched in February 2022, the PNC North Carolina HBCU Initiative is helping cultivate entrepreneurship resources and opportunities for students at five local universities through grant funding from the PNC Foundation.
When historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) were first established in the years following the Civil War, they represented a singular pathway to higher education for Black students. Today, the value proposition of the more than 100 HBCUs nationwide is defined by much more than access. These institutions are integral to the creation of jobs, economic development opportunities and vibrant communities – a premise that is especially true in North Carolina, which holds the distinction as the state with the highest enrollment of Black HBCU undergraduate students.
“At PNC, we recognize how important HBCUs are to our state’s success,” says Weston Andress, PNC regional president for Western Carolinas. “HBCU graduates contribute
significantly to the talent pipeline that is fueling North Carolina’s economy, and these universities are foundational to shaping the workforce North Carolina needs to remain competitive in business.”
To characterize the local economic impact of North Carolina’s HBCUs, Lori Jones Gibbs, PNC Community Development Banking market manager for the Carolinas, points to the landmark study, HBCUs Make America Strong: The Positive Economic Impact of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, produced by the Frederick D. Patterson Research Institute of UNCF (United Negro College Fund), which offers the following statistics:
• Together, North Carolina HBCUs generate $1.7 billion in total economic impact.
• Every dollar in initial spending by North Carolina HBCUs generates $1.42 in spending for local and regional economies.
• North Carolina HBCUs generate 15,563 jobs for local and regional economies.
• Graduates of North Carolina HBCUs can expect to earn 61% more over their lifetimes than they would without their college degrees.
“There’s no question HBCUs play an essential role in developing Black business leaders and fostering wealth creation in Black communities,” says Jones Gibbs. “Furthermore, these schools are uniquely positioned to help advance Black entrepreneurship and
To enrich the future of entrepreneurship and create workforce opportunities, PNC launched the PNC North Carolina HBCU Initiative in February 2022. Central to this effort is the distribution of more than $2 million in grant funding from the PNC Foundation, which will be awarded over a three-year period to help fund the development and delivery of entrepreneurship resources and programming for students at Elizabeth City State University, Fayetteville State University, Johnson C. Smith University, North Carolina Central University and Winston-Salem State University.
The PNC North Carolina HBCU Initiative is empowering these institutions to enhance their respective entrepreneurship curricula and offerings – from the introduction of new programs, to capacity-building opportunities, to technology enhancements. Additionally, students from all five schools will have the opportunity to participate in the PNC Pitch Competition, an annual forum where student-entrepreneurs can showcase innovative ideas and demonstrate their marketing skills.
The PNC North Carolina HBCU Initiative will come to life at each of the five grantee institutions in the following ways:
• Johnson C. Smith University is launching the PNC Entrepreneurship Hub, providing selected student-entrepreneurs with incubator space to develop and launch new businesses. The hub will equip these PNC Fellows with access to technology, seed funding
and mentorship to help them launch new businesses, or take existing ones to the next level.
• Winston-Salem State University will develop the PNC Entrepreneurial Fellows Program, helping selected student fellows learn critical aspects of creating a new venture by participating in nationally certified programs, workshops, research and one-on-one mentoring with successful North Carolina entrepreneurs.
• Elizabeth City State University will expand its Entrepreneur Lab, which offers resources and development opportunities for students interested in launching and marketing a business. The funding also has established the PNC Entrepreneurship Fellow Program and supported PNC Viking Entrepreneurship Week, which was held April 4-9.
•Fayetteville State University will build out its Entrepreneurship Lab (E-Lab), an action learning opportunity designed to help students accelerate new ideas and product development. Student entrepreneur teams creating or growing their own ventures may
compete for E-Lab funding. The E-Lab will also offer business and economic development
support for community members and foster self-employment opportunities.
• North Carolina Central University will establish a Center for Entrepreneurship and Economic Development. This program will provide student fellows with entrepreneurial and community economic development education and comprehensive small business finance training, and encourage them to become community development investors.
“PNC shares with these institutions a vision for advancing inclusive entrepreneurship education and opportunities,” says Jim Hansen, PNC regional president for Eastern Carolinas. “We look forward to joining student-entrepreneurs and their campus communities on this meaningful, three-year journey.”
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