New training program aims to grow, strengthen New York City minority-owned development firms

Randall Powell (right), CEO of Infinite Horizons, and his brother, Roland E. Powell, Jr. (left), the Chief Operations Officer of Infinite Horizons, are both participating in the LISC NYC Developers of Color Training Program.
Photo courtesy of Randall Powell

A new training program is aiming to connect minority business enterprise developers to the training, resources, expertise and networks needed to grow their influence and leadership in New York’s real estate industry, specifically the affordable housing sector.

The LISC NYC Developers of Color Training Program launched in early November by the economic development non-profit LISC NYC with the goal of growing and strengthening New York City minority-owned development firms, helping them to expand their portfolio of businesses and contracts. The program was developed in coordination with Columbia University. 

“It is such a challenge being a minority developer in New York, and a program like this, personally for me, is awe inspiring,” said Randall Powell, CEO of Infinite Horizons who is a developer participating in the program. “It’s a breath of fresh air, to be honest, because of the fact that there’s not a lot going on in terms of supporting minority developers.” 

The program launch follows findings from a recent report by Comptroller Scott Stringer that investigated opportunities for minority and women owned business enterprise contractors. The report showed that only 3.8% of the $30.4 billion in total contracts awarded by New York City in fiscal year 2021 were awarded to minority and women owned business enterprises. 

The program is guided by a curriculum developed by Columbia University and extensive market research conducted by R.F. Wilkins Consultants. Training includes four instruction modules led by Columbia faculty, along with workshops, one-on-one coaching by established developers in the industry, real time assistance with deals in the project pipeline, networking support and access to equity capital. 

“The LISC developers training program came in at the right time because we’re in a really growth stage of the organization, and this is really providing an opportunity for us to go to the next level,” Powell said. Adding, “We needed some help; we needed a hand up rather than a hand down, and this hand up is really going to put us in a position to enhance the organization and give us the well-rounded information that we need to position us for the future.”

Twelve minority business enterprise developers started their first day of training on Nov. 12. The participants were competitively selected among a group of firms conducting the majority of their business in the five boroughs and whose majority ownership is made up of people of color. Selected firms were required to have at least five years’ experience in real estate development with at least one active project in the works. Within one year, the program will strive to support a total of 36 minority business enterprise developers.

Powell said this is a good chance to network with other minority developers and enhance his skills, especially in the areas of affordable housing and real estate development and construction and property management. 

As the city’s affordable housing project pipeline grows and more market opportunities arise, LISC NYC hopes this new initiative will expand the capacity of minority-owned business enterprise developers and help them compete for more market share in the industry, said Valerie White, executive director of LISC NYC, who developed the program.

Through providing minority business developers with access to capital and the know-how to be successful in competing for contracts, LISC NYC aims to aid in closing the racial wealth gap and impact the communities these developers serve through a focus on entrepreneurship, workforce development and the rebuilding of communities with stronger infrastructure to provide services and job opportunities, White said.   

“There have been these systemic inequities and the inability of development firms owned by BIPOC individuals to have a fair share of opportunity, and without the access to capital it’s almost impossible to close this racial wealth gap that we’re seeing in our society, so at LISC we are always looking for opportunities to close that gap,” White said. 

The inaugural cohort of minority business enterprise developers participating in the LISC NYC Developers of Color Training Program include 26 Malcolm X Realty LLC, AoRa Development, Bottom Line Construction & Development, LLC, Brisa Builders Development LLC, Carthage Real Estate Advisors, CB-Emmanuel Realty, LLC, Construction Modern Design Inc., Gordon International Holdings, HGI America, Inc., Infinite Horizons, LLC, Jeffrey Venture Management Corp and JGV Management Corporation. 

The program will conclude in January 2022 with a “Shark Tank”-type investor pitch conference. The second cycle of training with 24 participants will launch soon after. An announcement of the opening of applications for the next cohort of minority business enterprise developers and eligibility requirements will be posted on LISC NYC’s website.