Helping Portland’s Small-Business Community Face the Next Chapter 

Brand Story – Small-business owners may apply for Comcast RISE grants and technology services June 1-30.

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For small businesses, 2020 ushered in a season of uncertainty they could never have predicted. In response, Comcast RISE provided grants and resources to help them adapt as the pandemic abruptly upended their existing business models. In the wake of its success, Comcast RISE is relaunching to help the small business community seize fresh growth opportunities as it settles into a new normal. 

“In our first year it was about helping businesses stay afloat,” recalls Rodrigo Lopez, Regional Senior Vice President, Comcast Washington. “There is still a lot of uncertainty out there, but we’ve stabilized to a certain degree. So, now the question for businesses is, how do we start the growth process? We want to help build momentum.” 

In this next installment, Comcast RISE will award a $5,000 monetary grant, along with expert services and resources, to 500 recipients—100 from each of its target cities: Portland, Baltimore, Detroit, Memphis and Philadelphia. When selecting its regions, Comcast considered the number of minority-owned and women-owned businesses, level of GDP growth and current economic climate in downtown areas. 

During its initial two years, Comcast RISE—which stands for Representation, Investment, Strength and Empowerment—aided roughly 13,000 small businesses and awarded over $110 million in grants and services. 

Rodrigo Lopez, Regional Senior Vice President, Comcast Washington

“We know that the economic engine of our society is the small business community, and the pandemic taught us the fragility of that ecosystem,” Lopez says. “We’ve always had a robust community strategy, but the pandemic led us to find how we could be a part of the solution for small businesses that were struggling.”

As a technology leader, Comcast saw an opportunity to help small businesses leverage digital tools and strategies as they reinvented themselves in the face of social distancing, transitioning from brick and mortar to online models. From bookstores, to dental offices, to eateries, to construction companies, to autobody shops, businesses of all industries benefited from Comcast RISE grants, technology upgrades and consulting services. 

“One of my favorite examples is a coffee shop that opened two weeks before the pandemic,” Lopez adds. “They lost their ability to serve in person and had to transition to selling beans online, which is a completely different business model from what they built their plan on. But now they’ve gotten really good at online commerce, shipping, processing and building a following.”   

Eligible businesses have until the end of June to apply to the program and, if selected, will receive services tailored to their needs, specifically centered on technology, creative production and media, tech education and business consultation. This time around, each recipient will get both financial support and services. 

The program’s exact length varies: Creative production and media services—supported by Effectv, Comcast’s advertising division and part of Comcast RISE—includes a 30-second TV commercial, media strategy consultation and 180-day media placement schedule. A technology makeover, on the other hand, may include computer equipment, and internet, voice and cybersecurity services for 12 months. 

Each award equates to approximately $40,000, resulting in a $4-million investment into Multnomah County’s small business ecosystem. 

Busse received a technology makeover and a year’s free Comcast Business services to support her small four-legged business.

Comcast RISE falls under Project UP, a one-billion-dollar multi-company initiative designed to advance digital equity by delivering internet connectivity and technology services. As it moves forward, Comcast RISE, initially built around BIPOC- and women-owned initiatives, will continue to focus on regions with underserved populations, citing a study from the National Bureau of Economic Research showing that Black-owned businesses declined by 41% during the pandemic, over double the rate of White-owned businesses. 

“The COVID pandemic amplified so many things that were there but weren’t as visible,” Lopez says about the digital equity gap. “There won’t be one program that can solve historic and systemic issues overnight, but we’ve made a commitment to take tangible action that could drive long-term change.”

Comcast RISE is working with the Portland Business Alliance and nonprofit partners to share this opportunity with small businesses, but also calls on members of the public and Comcast employees to spread the word.  

Multnomah County’s small businesses can complete the quick, simple application form any time between June 1 and June 30. To qualify, applicants must have 100 or fewer employees and at least three years of operation under their belts. Those selected will gain access to a financial grant, strategic business consultation services, tailored educational resources, creative production and media services and a technology makeover. 

“These businesses are the lifeblood of our communities, and COVID showed us what happens to our communities and quality of life when they fail,” Lopez notes. 

Originally launched as an emergency response to the pandemic, Comcast RISE has no plans of slowing down as it identifies new opportunities to positively impact the small business community, a critical slice of society that faces ongoing challenges. 

“We will continue to refine our own local tracking of businesses and see how they’re independently thriving,” Lopez concludes. “If we award 100 businesses and those businesses are in a much better place 12 to 20 months from now, then we know that we played a role. Nothing speaks louder than testimonials from Comcast RISE recipients.”

Learn more here
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Brand stories are paid content articles that allow Oregon Business advertisers to share news about their organizations and engage with readers on business and public policy issues.  The stories are produced in house by the Oregon Business marketing department. For more information, contact associate publisher Courtney Kutzman.