The Rockefeller Foundation

The Rockefeller Foundation says it was drawn to El Paso because of the city’s leadership and regional economic development initiatives.

El Paso is one of 10 cities selected by the Rockefeller Foundation to receive funding to support small businesses and their access to capital.

The city will get up to $1 million from the Rockefeller Foundation Opportunity Collective, or ROC, said Otis Rolley, senior vice president of the Rockefeller Foundation’s U.S. Equity and Economic Opportunity initiative.

“You box way above your weight class, and in many ways I think it’s a kept secret about how awesome the city is,” Rolley said. “We’re excited about continuing to partner.”

Rolley said one of the Rockefeller Foundation’s goals with the new program is to focus on ALICE, or asset limited, income restrained employed, as well as black and Latino-owned businesses.

“The data is showing that even where there’s been advances for people of color, African Americans and Latinos have very limited access to capital and credit,” Rolley said. “The same data shows when those investments are made they’re more likely to reinvest in their communities and help spread community wealth-building among black and brown folks.”

Rolley said the Rockefeller Foundation is also focused on providing more access to public and private capital, and the new initiative is set up to help leverage public dollars.

“With COVID-19 and the economic crisis, it’s highly likely, whether it’s a second term of Trump, or the first of Biden, that there will be substantial public dollars beyond just the CARES act,” Rolley said.

Other cities chosen to be part of the new initiative include Houston, Boston, Atlanta and Oakland.

Rolley said there will be a Rockefeller Foundation program officer that will be in charge of grant activities for El Paso but will not be based in the city.

The Rockefeller Foundation has done previous work in El Paso, including participation in the 100 Resilient Cities network that began in 2013.

Rolley said the foundation was also drawn to El Paso because of the city’s leadership and regional economic development initiatives.

“You’re one of the only places in the U.S. that has an economic development agency that collaborates and coordinates across the border,” Rolley said. “Most jurisdictions are kind of fighting each other for turf. You work in partnership, ignore the border and recognize those things as assets and strengths. I think it’s progressive and smart. More jurisdictions should be doing it.”

Email El Paso Inc. reporter Sara Sanchez at or call (915) 534-4422.


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