ST. LOUIS – Since the ribbon cutting to open the Northside Economic Empowerment Center (NEEC) in January 2023, more than 600 St. Louis City-based businesses have received support, capacity building and workforce development.
With a goal to support more than 1,000 businesses this year, the NEEC, located in the annex building of Sumner High School in North St. Louis, is funded by $1.5 million of American Rescue Plan Act funds through the St. Louis Development Corporation (SLDC).
The NEEC is an innovative concept that provides a team of business professionals who can serve current and new business owners with hands-on support, training and business empowerment across St. Louis City. The NEEC is a strategic, centralized center that meets businesses where they are in their journey, to provide training, digital lab, planning rooms, training and workshops and acts as a technical assistance hub for WBE/MBE contractors.
Neal Richardson, CEO & President of the SLDC says the NEEC will help reinvest across St. Louis City, while supporting business owners at the same time, “we have many businesses that are starting in St. Louis every day. If we are going to continue to win in that space, we want them to not just start, but be sustained and contribute to our overall ecosystem.”
Stacey Dotson, VP of SLDC, explains that the SLDC’s mission is focused on multiple pillars of economic justice, “this center falls under the economic empowerment pillar. So, we are about improving the economic ability of the community and that’s dealing with jobs ,workforce, going to school and improving their skills . We want to make sure we are being intentional about working with the individuals that come here and understand all the different services that are available for them to access. We need our St. Louisans to thrive, and this is the one stop shop to come in and start getting that information and doing the things they want to do.”
NEEC center manager, Nicole Dotson’s role is the front-line of the training and tracks programs within the NEEC. Dotson lights up when she talks about the businesses they have helped so far, “what is amazing about my job, I get to literally sit down face to face with these individual some are younger but most are middle aged and older and they want to know, ‘what are you going to do different than other programs that was in our community’, ‘why should we trust you’, ‘why should we come to the Economic Empowerment Center’, ‘how on are you going to be here’, and I say we are not going anywhere. We are here to stay.”
Business owners are provided with over 20 educational programming modules, in partnership with Maryville University’s MaryvilleWORKS platform. The modules created by Maryville’s faculty and staff, give business owners topics that are relevant such as business promotion, networking, accounting and finance, small business technologies, legal and contracting and WBE/MBE certifications.
The NEEC takes pride in creating new opportunities for families and entrepreneurs across the City of St. Louis to build generational wealth while priming neighborhoods for equitable growth for decades to come. This is what Positively St. Louis looks like.
The NEEC is open Monday through Friday, 8am – 5pm. To make an appointment or to learn more call 314-617-0360 or visit DevelopStLouis.org/NEEC.