Gibbons Helps Structure Joint Venture to Assist Black Business Enterprises


March 18, 2021

Gibbons P.C. is working with its longtime client, New Jersey Community Capital (NJCC), in structuring a joint venture with the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey (AACCNJ) to financially assist Black business enterprises (BBEs), including those that have been economically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. This venture is the largest-scale partnership between a community development financial institution and a New Jersey-based Chamber of Commerce to direct capital to small BBEs.

Led by Robert L. Johnson, a Director in the Corporate Department and the firm’s Chief Diversity Officer, Gibbons connected NJCC with AACCNJ, then devised and structured the joint venture transaction, starting in January 2021. The venture, called the Equitable Small Business Initiative (ESBI), is a $5 million commitment to give New Jersey BBEs access to the resources necessary to establish, sustain, improve, or expand their business operations. The ESBI provides hands-on, customized support to program borrowers, distributes pandemic relief loans, and directs critical capital to help BBEs address their emergent and longer-term business financing objectives.

Notably, the ESBI is already attracting outside contributions in support of its mission. For example, in March 2021, the Pascale Sykes Foundation made a $1 million commitment. John E. Harmon Sr., IOM, Founder, President, and CEO of the AACCNJ, notes of the joint venture and the Sykes Foundation donation, “Through our partnership, we will provide technical assistance and needed capital to support businesses that have been marginalized due to systemic barriers.”

“The Equitable Small Business Initiative addresses opportunity gaps for Black small business enterprises in the state of New Jersey by building a more equitable lending ecosystem to improve economic opportunity, create jobs, and support a more just economy where even the most vulnerable communities thrive,” adds Wayne Meyer, President of NJCC.

Mr. Johnson’s work on the ESBI has been a natural outgrowth of his longstanding, combined experience as a corporate transactional attorney and a Chief Diversity Officer. He accomplished a similar goal last year, when he initiated the firm’s partnership with the “Small Businesses Need Us” initiative of the Institute for Entrepreneurial Leadership, to assist women and minority small business owners impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Through the program, volunteers with various specialties required for day-to-day business operations, including legal service providers, are organized into cross-functional teams and matched with participating small businesses based on their specific needs. Under Mr. Johnson’s direction, in conjunction with the firm’s pro bono coordinator, Gibbons attorneys assist a variety of small women- and minority-owned enterprises in wide-ranging legal practice areas.