Citi program receives Corporate Innovator award

L.A. Mayor's Office recognizes Citi Community Development's Bridges to Business Success program

LOS ANGELES – This week, Citi Community Development received the Corporate Innovator of the Year Award from Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's Office of Economic and Business Policy in recognition of its leadership in bringing together a network of stakeholders to implement the Bridges to Business Success program that is certifying, training and empowering minority-owned small businesses in the real estate services field to grow and create jobs. Underscoring the program's swift progress since its January launch, today federal and local officials hosted the groundbreaking of the first construction project set to be undertaken through the program.

Bridges to Business Success is a collaboration of Citi Community Development, the City of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Housing Department, the University of Southern California Minority Business Development Agency, and the Southern California Minority Business Development Council. The program makes use of federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP) funds received by the City of Los Angeles to create jobs and revitalize neighborhoods. In the program, minority-owned, real estate-focused small businesses undertake an eight-week business training course at the University of Southern California and receive assistance in developing a strategic procurement plan.

"We are excited to participate in the Bridges to Business Success Program and welcome the opportunity to further the City's outreach to local minority business owners," said Matt Karatz, City of LA Deputy Mayor for Economic and Business Policy. "This collaboration with our housing and economic development partners speaks to our commitment to revitalizing communities and creating jobs in Los Angeles."

"Citi Community Development is proud to be recognized for our innovative work to empower Southern California business owners by giving them the resources they need to grow and succeed," said Bob Annibale, Citi's Global Director of Community Development. "We thank the Mayor's office for this recognition. Our local Community Development team, led by Gustavo Bidart and Victor Ramirez, will continue to work with all of our partners to expand opportunities for the small businesses that are so critical to driving economic growth."

Today's groundbreaking at 14651 Novice Street, a foreclosed property in Panorama City acquired by the City using NSP funds, is the first bricks-and-mortar project associated with Bridges to Business Success. Businesses that successfully complete the certification and training program will have the opportunity to bid on contracts related to the rehabilitation of the property.

"We are proud to support this innovative program and to provide minority-owned businesses with the knowledge and skills to expand their business, create jobs, and strengthen their communities," said Rebecca Macieira-Kaufmann, President of Citibank California. "Through this unique public-private collaboration, Bridges to Business Success is already helping business owners and communities in Southern California."

Key to the success of Bridges to Business Success is the availability of 25 affordable housing construction contracts with the Los Angeles Housing Department, on which participating minority-owned businesses can bid after completing the training. These contracting opportunities are associated with the rehabilitation of foreclosed properties, like 14651 Novice Street, acquired by Restore Neighborhoods Los Angeles, Inc.

Praise for the expected impact of Bridges to Business Success is widespread at all levels of government.

"Bridges to Business Success is an innovative approach to utilizing HUD's Neighborhood Stabilization Program funding," said Ophelia Basgal, Regional Administrator of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. "Not only is this program providing opportunities for small business development and job creation but it will also address the stabilization of neighborhoods hardest hit by foreclosures by rehabilitating vacant homes like this one here in Panorama City and those throughout the Los Angeles metro area."

"The foreclosure crisis doesn't just hurt the families who lose their homes, it damages entire communities by adding blight to our neighborhoods," said LA Councilmember Richard Alarcón. "This program not only reduces blight – it goes even further by creating jobs and supporting minority-owned small businesses in Los Angeles. I am very proud to continue my support of the Building Bridges to Success program."

Most of the Bridges to Business Success Program participants will receive certification by the Southern California Minority Business Development Council thanks to support from Citi, greatly expanding access to contracting opportunities and new capital needed to grow. It is estimated that the program will create 200 new jobs by the end of 2012.

"USC knows the importance of providing jobs for our community and the vital role that minority businesses play in creating self-sufficiency and job creation," said Theda S. Douglas, Associate Vice President of Government Partnerships and Programs for USC. "We are proud of our role in creating stronger neighborhoods by empowering and enhancing an entrepreneurial spirit."

About Citi

Citi, the leading global bank, has approximately 200 million customer accounts and does business in more than 160 countries and jurisdictions. Citi provides consumers, corporations, governments and institutions with a broad range of financial products and services, including consumer banking and credit, corporate and investment banking, securities brokerage, transaction services, and wealth management.

About Citi Community Development

Citi Community Development (CCD) is leading Citi's commitment to achieve economic empowerment and growth for underserved individuals, families and communities by expanding access to financial products and services, and building sustainable business solutions and innovative partnerships. Our focus areas include: commercial and philanthropic funding; innovative financial products and services; and collaborations with institutions that expand access to financial products and services for low-income and underserved communities. For more information, visit www.citicommunitydevelopment.com.