One of the key lessons to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic has been the importance of technology and access to digital resources for all community members. As part of a broader commitment to expand digital equity across the country, Comcast has joined together with regional partners to jumpstart a new era of digital equity for diverse communities in Tacoma and the greater South Sound region.
On September 12, representatives from Comcast, alongside Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards and additional regional partners, gathered in downtown Tacoma to announce a new partnership that will include $300,000 in grant funding in support of local students, families and small businesses. These funds will be distributed to a range of organizations that operate in Tacoma and the South Sound region. The grants are intended to boost small businesses, strengthen the local economy and increase access to internet and technology resources for local students and community members.
“The impact of the pandemic has been severe,” says Marianne Bichsel, vice president of external affairs for Comcast Washington. “So, we wanted to extend our partnerships here in Tacoma and go a little deeper to help small businesses and help the community that is in need in terms of digital equity.”
A Boost for Small Businesses, Nonprofits and Students in the South Sound
To help assist Tacoma’s small business community, the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber will receive $150,000 for the Thrive Tacoma Business Fund. In support of local residents, families and students, Boys & Girls Clubs of the South Puget Sound and Goodwill of the Olympic and Rainier Region will each receive $50,000. The nonprofit organization, TeamWrk, will also receive $50,000 through a combination of funds and donated computers. These grant funds were announced as part of a broader Comcast initiative, Project UP, in which Comcast has pledged $1 billion over the next decade to help increase access to digital tools and technology for 50 million people.
The partnership with the City of Tacoma and regional nonprofits is the newest move from Comcast to support South Sound residents and students. Throughout the years, Comcast has worked to ensure broader access to digital tools through programs like Internet Essentials. And through this new partnership, these grant funds can further bolster the local economy, connect the community and provide greater technology access for community members who need it the most.
“We know small businesses create more jobs and hire from the community, more so than large businesses in many places. But they also are like a backbone of a community,” says Dalila Wilson-Scott, executive vice president and chief diversity officer for Comcast Corporation. “They’re a hub of connection, and it’s been great to have a lot of activity happening around small businesses, and nonprofits are small businesses at the end of the day. So, I think just as the challenges of the country became very clear for people, especially what it meant for most vulnerable populations, we’re able to work with partners we’ve known for decades in a much more targeted way. And it’s great to have the mayor’s support behind that as well.”
Support for BIPOC and Women-Owned Businesses in Tacoma
Andrea Reay, the CEO of the Tacoma Pierce County Chamber, is especially excited by the new partnership with Comcast and the City of Tacoma, as it will provide additional resources for small businesses, particularly BIPOC-owned and women-owned businesses in Tacoma.
Working closely with neighboring nonprofits, Asia Pacific Cultural Center, Mi Centro, and The Black Collective, the Tacoma Pierce County Chamber have established the Thrive Tacoma Business Fund, a grant program for BIPOC-owned and women-owned businesses within Tacoma city limits. As many small businesses in the area are still recovering from the impacts of the pandemic, these dollars can help increase access to capital, technology and other resources needed for small businesses to flourish.
“This, for me, is an extension of what that long-term commitment means and what that partnership and collaboration look like within, for the community,” says Reay. “We’re stronger together, and the more we can work together and partner together, the better work we’ll be able to do and the more responsive we’ll be able to be to the needs of our community.”
Greater Access to Technology for Local Students
For Lonnetta Cunningham, CEO and president of TeamWrk, the announcement felt like a dream, as it took place on the eve of the nonprofit’s third anniversary. Because the mission of TeamWrk is so closely related to technology access for youth, this partnership with Comcast and the City of Tacoma is welcome news. Through these funds, the organization can maintain and expand on its current programming and will allow them to serve even more students in the region.
Founded by Marcel Cunningham, the creator of the YouTube channel BasicallyIDoWrk, TeamWrk helps local students to achieve their goals and create a personal brand through mentorship, career development opportunities and by helping them to thrive in the technological world. This includes providing guidance and education for responsible gaming, online safety, character development, bullying prevention, as well as online meeting and interview skills.
“There’s such a big, huge demand for us to expand,” says Lonnetta Cunningham. “We have kids that don’t have laptops still. So, our goal is to make sure that the kids we know and we’re working with are going to get laptops. The other laptops we’re going to use for our programs and lessons. We can also be mobile throughout Tacoma so we can go to the kids. We realize that kids aren’t always going to get to come to us. And that’s why we were going to clubs all over Tacoma, and now we’ll be able to go to them again. So, it’s a huge thing. It’s a big deal and a great day.”
To learn more about the partnership between Comcast, the City of Tacoma and local nonprofit organizations, visit the Comcast website.