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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Charlotte public-private plan targets $250M for racial equity

Some of Charlotte’s major businesses and nonprofits gathered Monday to announce their donations for a $250 million initiative to address racial equity in the Queen City. The goal is to improve the status of “black and brown residents,” Atrium CEO Eugene Woods said at the event.

The effort followed more than a year of discussions involving Mayor Vi Lyles, Foundation for the Carolinas CEO Michael Marsicano and the Charlotte Executive Leadership Council, which is made up of about two-dozen prominent chief executives who on occasions weigh in on key local issues. The group’s leaders include CEOs Brian Moynihan of Bank of America, Lynn Good of Duke Energy, Marvin Ellison of Lowe’s and Woods.

Lyles and other local leaders have pressed Charlotte’s business community to do more to aid Black and Brown residents after the George Floyd death in Minnesota and other high profile racially charged incidents. City leaders also often cite a 2014 Harvard University study showing social and economic mobility has proven more challenging in Charlotte than other major U.S. cities.

In response, the leaders said today they had collected $196 million from the private sector, including $80 million from the city of Charlotte and library system. 

Plans call for several main initiatives:

–$80 million for programs at Johnson C. Smith University, the city’s historically Black college that enrolls about 1,200 students annually. The goal is to make it a top-10 U.S. HBCU.

–$109 million for new employment and housing programs in six city corridors that haven’t done as well economically as Charlotte’s major growth areas.

–$58 million to increase digital service for low-income residents, including a new Center for Digital Equity to be led by Queens University, a private college.

The biggest donations were $40 million from the Charlotte-based Duke Endowment and $25 million from BofA. The Duke Endowment, which has provided tens of millions of dollars previously to Johnson C. Smith under terms of industrial magnate J.B. Duke’s 1920s-era will, is directing all of its money to the college.

Other big donors included Lowe’s, $10 million; Truist, $8 million, Atrium Health, $6.1 million; Ally Financial, $5 million; Red Ventures CEO Ric Elias, $5 million; Novant Health, $3 million; and Duke Energy, $3 million.

Gifts of $1 million were announced from the CLT2020 Host Committee set up for the Republican National Convention held in Charlotte last year; EY (formerly Ernst & Young); the Michael Jordan Family/the Charlotte Hornets Foundation; National Gypsum/CD Spangler Foundation; and Trane Technologies. 

Mayor Lyles, who led the press conference, said it is an unprecedented public-private effort to address systemic issues.   

Officials said $29 million still needs to be raised from the private sector. The Foundation for the Carolinas will manage the project’s money.

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