The Uptown Business Improvement District in North Long Beach is undergoing a contract negotiation with a newly formed nonprofit that could strengthen the district’s ability to provide business support and security in the area.

If the contract is approved, the Uptown business district would partner with the Long Beach Center for Economic Inclusion for a year, covering the Artesia Boulevard and Atlantic Avenue main corridors and more than 140 businesses. The partnership would allow the business district to make stronger demands with the city to allocate financial support, such as grants and federal relief payments, to North Long Beach. The money could be used to pay for small business support and increase security along the corridors, according to the district’s board members.

Joni Ricks-Oddie, a board member for the district, said the nonprofit approached them in late 2020 with a partnership proposal. The contract is currently under final negotiations, and there is no clear date when it has to be approved, Ricks-Oddie said. But she is anticipating the final draft of the contract will be voted on sometime in August or September.

“I personally think it’s a fantastic opportunity to grow and to meet the coming needs of business support,” she said. “Beyond clean and safe, as a community member, I’m really excited about being able to leverage LBCEI’s relationship with the city, bringing more resources to North Long Beach.”

Developers have made their interest in North Long Beach clear, with well-known property developers such as the LAB Holding already laying down designs for projects near the Michelle Obama Library.

The LBCEI nonprofit was formed in 2019 and launched in 2020 as part of a 2017 initiative from the city called Everyone In. The plan was meant to prioritize the creation of businesses, well-paying jobs and economic inclusion for all Long Beach residents for the next ten years.

The nonprofit is relatively new. Jeff Williams, the newly appointed interim director of the nonprofit, said the organization had its first official meeting a week before the stay-at-home health orders began as COVID-19 spread in March. The organization quickly gained experience with helping businesses navigate loan portals and federal grants during the pandemic, Williams said.

Tasha Hunter, the current Uptown BID executive director, is tasked with connecting with businesses in North Long Beach to conduct similar support roles the nonprofit was doing in other business corridors. For Williams, the partnership with Hunter and the Uptown BID seemed natural.

“I think that’s kind of what they were hoping for—to expand,” Williams said. “I got to be honest, she’s kind of been a one-woman show for a while.”

Alongside not having enough staffing, the Uptown business district also lacks the same funding capabilities as other well-established businesses development organizations such as the Downtown Long Beach Alliance or the Bixby Knolls Business Improvement District.

Yanki Greenspan, Uptown business district president and owner of Westland Realty Group, said the budget for the district was about $170,000 a year. Roughly $50,000 goes to safety and security, $40,000 goes into cleaning the corridors and $30,000 goes into marketing Uptown. The rest pays for administrative tasks and accounting, Greenspan said. Money for the district comes from property taxes in the corridor.

During a special business district board meeting on June 2, members of the business district discussed that safety and cleanliness continue to be the greatest concerns for residents and business owners.

A partnership with the nonprofit could help pay for more security patrols in North Long Beach, Greenspan said.

“I think it would make sense,” he said. “I do believe we don’t have a big enough budget.”

Though there was unanimous support from the district’s board members for the partnership, Greenspan said they were trying to come to an agreement on writing in the contract that would hand over all administrative roles to the nonprofit, including tax consultation and compliance with city laws.

The nonprofit would also boost small business support in the area with digital training for business owners, grant writing and loan support.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify when LBCEI was formed.