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CenterState CEO, KeyBank seek to boost BIPOC, women, and veteran-owned businesses

By Eric Reinhardt (


The goal is to produce generational wealth

KeyBank presents a $500,000 donation to the CenterState CEO Foundation to support the expansion of business coaching and technical assistance programs for Black, Indigenous and other People of Color (BIPOC), women- and veteran-owned firms in Central New York. Pictured here (from left to right) are Stephen Fournier, KeyBank’s Central New York market president; Robert Simpson, president and CEO of CenterState CEO; Andrew Obernesser, CenterState CEO director of community investment; and Tamika Otis, KeyBank Central New York corporate responsibility officer. PHOTO CREDIT: CENTERSTATE CEO

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — CenterState CEO says it plans to expand business coaching and technical-assistance programs for Black, Indigenous and other People of Color (BIPOC), women, and veteran-owned firms in Central New York.

The organization will use a $500,000 donation from KeyBank (NYSE: KEY) to do so. 

The grant is part of KeyBank’s commitment to invest $40 billion in the communities it serves and support diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts, CenterState CEO said in its Feb. 6 announcement.

KeyBank made its donation to the CenterState CEO Foundation, which works to “attract philanthropic support for CenterState CEO programs that remove barriers to economic prosperity for people and places,” per the announcement.

“This unique approach to equitable growth by CenterState CEO will help entrepreneurs from all backgrounds have access to assistance and financing they need that will help our region grow,” Stephen Fournier, KeyBank’s Central New York market president, said in a news release. “We are proud to invest in their efforts that will make it possible for marginalized entrepreneurs to build successful futures and generational wealth.”

This funding will also play a key role in helping CenterState CEO scale efforts to expand access to business financing for “under-capitalized founders,” for whom traditional business loans and investments are “often challenging,” the organization contends.

It will support the launch and growth of underrepresented and BIPOC firms through training, coaching, and technical assistance under CenterState CEO’s Up Start program and other small-business development programming. That programming includes a real-estate developer-in-residence pilot. 

The funding will also provide direct lending to — and investment in — undercapitalized firms via CenterState CEO’s Growth + Equity Fund.

“Systemic barriers have often left the talent of many entrepreneurs in our community untapped and their potential under supported,” Dominic Robinson, senior VP of inclusive growth at CenterState CEO, said in the release. “This investment from KeyBank will support important tools like the Growth + Equity Fund and Up Start that address these equity gaps and scale their economic impact on entrepreneurs from historically disinvested populations and neighborhoods.”

The CenterState CEO announcement went on to say, “Ultimately, as participants in these programs build successful businesses, they will achieve financial sustainability and begin to build generational wealth. As drivers of the local economy, they will gain stronger voices in local leadership, participate in the regeneration of the built environment, and drive economic growth and revitalization in these neighborhoods.”

“Building generational wealth is key to building strong neighborhoods and strong economies,” Tamika Otis, corporate responsibility officer for KeyBank in Central New York, said in the release. “This investment by Key will kelp CenterState CEO continue the important work they are doing to level the playing field and make our community more accessible, equitable and successful.”

Since 2017, KeyBank has followed through on community commitments totaling more than $599 million in Central New York, supporting affordable housing and community development projects; small business and home lending to low-to-moderate income individuals and communities; and transformative philanthropy, per the release.

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