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North Charleston’s Opportunity Center Helps Empower Entrepreneurs and Build Generational Wealth in Low-Income Communities

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Leaders from the four partners in The Opportunity Center, pictured left to right: Bernie Mazyck, SCACED; Dr. Jennie Stephens, Center for Heirs Property Preservation; Jerome Heyward, Mayor Pro Tempore of North Charleston; Dorothea Bernique, Increasing HOPE; and Don Oglesby, Homes of Hope, gather to cut the ceremonious ribbon, marking the official opening of the new building.

In January 2022, The Opportunity Center opened for business in North Charleston, South Carolina, designed to create economic development opportunities for low-income communities. This innovative space provides workforce development, small business incubators, and coworking spaces benefiting entrepreneurs and start-ups, while maintaining offices of local non-profits actively working in the community and economic development sector.

The center is the result of a unique collaboration between four partner organizations, including the South Carolina Association for Community Economic Development (SCACED). Employees first shared their vision of what the center could be with Clemson University’s Economic Development Department, who saw potential in the project and recommended the Economic Development Administration (EDA).

EDA agreed, and in 2019, awarded a $2.7 million grant to partner Homes of Hope, which offers South Carolina families with affordable housing and workforce development programs. They have served the state for over 20 years and are today the largest nonprofit affordable housing developer in South Carolina. They also served as developer of The Opportunity Center, overseeing all renovations and contractors.

“The Opportunity Center was designed as a collaborative space,” said Bernie Mazyck, president and CEO of SCACED. “We are serving the entire state of South Carolina, building an economic ecosystem for entrepreneurs of color. Through EDA’s investment, we are achieving recognizable transitions and transformation, helping to move the needle.”

The third partner is Increasing HOPE, a non-profit financial training center that provides educational opportunities to the local community. They also offer free tax preparation services as needed, at times that are convenient for their clients.

“They’ve been in business for over sixteen years, but just recently moved into the center,” said Mazyck. “When you walk into their office, you can see their humanity. Clients feel as if they are walking into H&R Block.”

The fourth partner is the Center for Heirs Property Preservation, which offers direct legal services and education to help families protect and keep their land. In business for over sixteen years, this non-profit helps clients transform their land into a valuable asset, working to build multi-generational wealth.

By early 2020, the partners had identified an ideal location for the center in North Charleston, but the real-world disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic hampered construction efforts. Groundbreaking for the new 31,000-square-foot facility was eventually held in January 2021, and construction was completed later that fall.

Though less than a year old, The Opportunity Center has already attracted attention throughout the state. At least ten additional tenants will soon headquarter there, while other businesses and organizations take advantage of the center’s meeting space.

Tags: Workforce Development

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