Economic and Policy Impact Center (EPIC) Interim Executive Director Steve Neal speaks during the nonprofit’s launch gala at the Long Beach Convention Center Wednesday night. Photos by Stephanie Rivera.
A new nonprofit has launched in Long Beach and it aims to create equal access to economic prosperity for everyone by creating a civically engaged community and nurturing the city’s next leaders.
The Economic and Policy Impact Center (EPIC) was years in the making and the culmination of countless conversations between leaders in different sectors of the community, said Interim Executive Director and former Long Beach Councilman Steve Neal.
It was also about timing. Seeing a paradigm shift in the community and the work being done by elected leaders like his successor and former chief of staff, Vice Mayor Rex Richardson, Neal said it made sense to launch the nonprofit about four months ago.
“I think this is a direction where the timing is perfect, the stars are aligned,” Neal said. “We’re finding that more and more people have an interest of wanting to be involved and just don’t know how so we just want to be able to help facilitate that.”
With its three pillars (emerging leaders, economic inclusion and civic engagement), the goal of EPIC is to empower neighborhoods and individuals to help each other by developing partnerships with community, labor, business and education industries.
“There is a rising electorate in America that’s comprised of women, people of color and young people—and they are ready for their ideas to be heard and their needs to be met,” said Neal. “While, in many cases, this is a group that doesn’t get heard more because many don’t know they can demand to be heard, there is evidence of their growing engagement and political power. EPIC wants to serve as a facilitator to change that narrative.”
Young entrepreneur Marcus Tyson said he responded to the call to action and got involved with EPIC because “it’s for the people, by the people” and it pushes to empower others and create a new voice for disenfranchised communities that deserve better.
“There are a lot of young people who are fresh out of college, they have entrepreneurial ideas, they want to get involved, they want to serve, they want to volunteer, they want to donate their time and also their money but there’s a disconnect between people who hold power in the city,” said the 29-year-old who served as EPIC’s host committee co-chair during its launch gala Wednesday night. “It’s important that people who are willing to serve find an avenue in which they can make an impact in the lives of others.”
EPIC is currently working on launching its first leadership program before the end of the summer. According to its website, the EPIC Leadership Institute is a six-month program meant to cultivate emerging leaders wanting to expand their social impact in the greater Long Beach area.
Richardson, who was tapped to be EPIC’s honorary launch chair for its gala, said he was immediately on board with helping launch EPIC.
“Steve’s been a champion for emerging leaders,” Richardson said. “Steve hired me as a 25-year-old chief of staff, he gave me a shot. He’s sort of always supported that concept of emerging leadership.”
Richardson noted that while there are leadership programs established already, this organization understands the changing demographics of the city, which has gone from a population composed of 30 percent people of color to today where it stands at 70 percent.
“Seventy percent of the city is people of color who have traditionally massive barriers to economic success,” Richardson said. “Unless we say those 70 percent of people in our city have real opportunities to thrive in our city there is no such thing as a thriving city unless the people of the city are thriving.”
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