More help is on the way for small businesses and nonprofits

May 28, 2020

A local group of companies and foundations has launched a new initiative to help small businesses and nonprofits across the region survive the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new program is called Open4. Its focus is to connect local small businesses and nonprofits with long-term support from a variety of public and private partners including the John R. Oishei Foundation.        

“During the last three months many of us in the private and nonprofit sector have been communicating on how we can collaborate and really assist those that have been just affected to a level that's unconscionable. And what we need to do is help them to recover from the devastation that they're experiencing,” said Robert Gioia, Oishei's president.

Along with Oishei, the group including M&T Bank, Pegula Sports and Entertainment, KeyBank/First Niagara Foundation, and the Ralph Wilson Foundation has committed $6 million to the initiative. Gioia says Open4 will be able to help connect small businesses and nonprofits with loans, grants and other funding.

“And many of these organizations are so small they've never had to borrow money before and we need to help them,” Gioia said.

Tenured advisors will also provide mentoring and technical assistance and there will also be operational and support staff to help businesses run efficiently.        

“It really is a partnership that we want these organizations to not only survive but to thrive,” Gioia said.