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Community Advocacy Organization

LEAP and PNC Foundation Launch Elevate, Groundbreaking Black Entrepreneurship Program

LANSING, Mich. (Feb. 24, 2022) — The Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP), with support from the PNC Foundation, has opened applications for Elevate, a Black business accelerator program in Clinton, Eaton and Ingham counties.

Elevate, an entrepreneurial support program focused on empowering, refining, enhancing and scaling Black businesses to grow into the future, is meant to help Black business owners improve and maximize operational efficiency and heighten business sophistication to drive increased profitability and revenue. At least 51% of the entrepreneurs accepted into the Elevate program will be at or below Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (ALICE) level and all participants will identify as Black.

“Black business ownership is a proven path to wealth and job creation that stimulates the U.S. economy,” said Tony Willis, chief equity development officer at LEAP. “Deep-rooted systemic challenges still contribute to limiting economic growth and prosperity for Black people, ultimately preventing generational wealth. With Elevate, made possible with funding from PNC Foundation, LEAP has an opportunity to address these issues and facilitate change.”

The Elevate initiative is made possible through a three-year grant from PNC as part of its $88 billion Community Benefits Plan announced in 2021, inclusive of a previously announced commitment of more than $1.5 billion to support the economic empowerment of Black Americans and low- and moderate-income communities.

“PNC’s support of LEAP’s continued diverse programming reflects our Main Street values and commitment to the communities where we conduct business,” said Timothy Salisbury, PNC regional president for Mid-Michigan. “The Elevate program is an example of what can be accomplished through strong public-private partnerships. It’s essential to support local businesspeople as our communities face many challenges presented by the pandemic and historical exclusion.”

Since 2000, the United States economy lost an estimated $16 trillion due to discrimination, according to a Sept. 2020 study by Citi Group. By addressing the racial wealth gap by 2028, U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) stands to grow by an estimated $1.5 trillion, or 6% of its current level, according to a 2019 McKinsey report. The Elevate program strives to raise awareness of this deficit along racial lines and reparate Black business owners with resources and programming previously unavailable due to systemic barriers.

Elevate programming includes individualized business assessment, customized work plan development and one-on-one technical assistance. A committee comprised of LEAP employees and board members, and representatives of PNC will select eight entrepreneurs to participate in this six- to eight-month accelerator program.

“As one of LEAP’s regional programs, Elevate is designed to increase the number of people participating in our regional economy. Our region’s long-term economic stability and prosperity is strengthened by more people with more money in their pockets, and more businesses. LEAP will continue to be intentional and lead the way in the Lansing region and across the state and nation to reduce barriers to participation,” said Bob Trezise, president and CEO of LEAP.

Applications to the Elevate program will be accepted until March 22, 2022. For more information, to apply and to follow the journey of this flagship enterprise, refer to LEAP’s website at

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