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Black-owned business space opens at west Louisville sports complex

The Norton Healthcare Sports and Learning Center occupies a 24-acre lot in Louisville's Russell neighborhood that previously sat vacant for over a decade.
The Norton Healthcare Sports and Learning Center occupies a 24-acre lot in Louisville's Russell neighborhood that previously sat vacant for over a decade.

A new project aimed at showcasing Black-owned Louisville businesses is up and running.

The Louisville Urban League established a permanent indoor and outdoor pop-up space at its Norton Healthcare Sports and Learning Complex in west Louisville. The League will use the PNC Entrepreneur Plaza to support Black business owners by providing an area for them to promote their services.

The plaza opened on Friday in celebration of National Black Business Month, an August initiative that began in 2004.

Sadiqa Reynolds, the League’soutgoing president and CEO, said interested Black entrepreneurs should apply to reserve a space online through its Center for Entrepreneurship.

“Where we can, every time we open the doors, we're highlighting Black businesses. And we're deciding, who does it make sense to have here? Is it, you know, the bookstore? Is it the coffee store?... The more the community sees them, the more their business increases,” Reynolds said.

Business owners will be able to market their services to guests at the sports complex’s events, such as the upcoming 2023 ACC Indoor Track and Field Championships next February. That event is expected to draw 1,000 athletes and 2,000 spectators.

The League already worked with Black business owners to set up pop-up services at the site before opening the plaza and dedicating a space for that kind of activity.

Ausha Hilliman runs Julee’s Mocha, a new coffee shop located at the Nia Center in the Parkland neighborhood. She said she has previously promoted her company at the Sports and Learning Complex.

“They invite us for it, like, fairly quickly, and I'm always here to support and get my name out,” said Hilliman, who noted coffee shops are rare in the West End.

Aaron Williams also participated in past pop-ups at the complex. He owns Chicago’s Jerk Tacos, a restaurant located across the street in the Russell neighborhood.

He said he wants his work as a Black business owner to help inspire the next generation.

“I feel that it's important for the youth to see minority-owned businesses, and it gives them something to strive for, and to look forward to,” Williams said.

Last year, Mayor Greg Fischer’s office said 2.4% of Louisville businesses were Black-owned.

According to the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances, Black American families’ median net worth was nearly eight times lower than white families’ median net worth in 2019, despite growing 33% since 2016.

That wealth gap impacts rates of business ownership, according to a report by the Brookings Institution, a centrist research and policy group.

The PNC Foundation funded the Entrepreneur Plaza through a $1 million grant made to the League last year to support business and workforce development at the Sports and Learning Complex.

This story has been updated to include the full name of the Sports and Learning Complex.

Jacob is LPM's Business and Development Reporter. Email Jacob at jmunoz@lpm.org.