Wells Fargo donates $20M to strengthen Houston small businesses
Charlie Scharf, Wells Fargo CEO (wearing hat), with Mayor Turner and others. Photo by Jimmie Aggison.

Wells Fargo announced a $20 million donation to the Houston Fund for Social Justice and Economic Equity, also known as the Houston Equity Fund (HEF), to provide small business owners with new ways to grow and own more of their businesses.

The Houston Equity Fund will distribute the funding in the form of grants towards the purchase of property, equipment and other tangible assets, supporting economic development in underserved communities. The funding is estimated to reach more than 500 small businesses in Houston.

The donation comes from Wells Fargo’s Open for Business Fund, a roughly $420 million national small business recovery effort with a focus on racially and ethnically diverse small business owners, who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. The fund was created from the gross processing fees that Wells Fargo received from Paycheck Protection Program loans made in 2020.

Wells Fargo CEO said Charlie Scharf said his company didn’t need that money, and thus began discussions on what to do with it.

“We should try to give away all $420 million and put it back into communities that need it most,” said Scharf.

The next step, figuring out how to distribute those funds, led to Wells Fargo choosing five cities, then looking for local entities to identify businesses most in need, i.e. those who couldn’t access PPP funds.

That led Wells Fargo to the HEF, whose president, Thomas Jones, was on hand, along with other HEF leadership, to celebrate the announcement.

With the donation, The Houston Equity Fund aims to equip small business owners and nonprofits with capital to purchase commercial property, equipment and technology upgrades, particularly in underserved communities. For more information, visit houstonequityfund.com.

“The Houston Equity Fund is committed to bridging the gap in economic equity while simultaneously infusing hope into the business trajectory of underrepresented and under-resourced small businesses and nonprofits,” said Thomas Jones, Houston Equity Fund’s Board President. “We are honored to work with Wells Fargo to make impactful and transformational change for minority-owned small businesses and nonprofit organizations across our city.”

Wells Fargo donates $20M to strengthen Houston small businesses

Mayor Sylvester Turner, was on hand, as well.

“When we announced the Houston Equity Fund last May, our initial fundraising goal was $25 million to accelerate meaningful change among those who are under-resourced and overlooked,” said Turner. “This generous gift from Wells Fargo will enact meaningful change and help sustain our city’s diverse, small businesses that play a vital role in driving the long-term economic growth and innovation while allowing our communities to thrive.”

Wells Fargo’s Open for Business Fund has previously supported Houston small businesses through grants to LiftFund and the Houston Community College Foundation, and other local grants enabled nonprofits such as the University of Houston Foundation, Texas Black Expo, Impact Hub Houston, and the Association for the Advancement of Mexican Americans to serve entrepreneurs.

Open for Business Fund grantees are estimated to reach more than 152,000 small business owners nationally and will help entrepreneurs maintain an estimated 255,000 jobs. Roughly 85% of small businesses served by grantees are Black, African American, Hispanic, Asian American, and Native American small business owners. Wells Fargo also offers a Small Business Resource Center where entrepreneurs can explore business planning, financing considerations, and practical advice.

“Fostering an inclusive economic recovery and helping small businesses sustain themselves and grow in the wake of COVID-19 is a priority for us,” said Scharf. “As a company, we have a commitment to make the communities where we operate stronger, and to do it at a very local level. Today’s donation is one of the largest we’ve made from the Open for Business Fund, and we know it will make a difference for small business owners here in Houston.”

NOTE: All phots by Jimmie Aggison