The Center for Economic Inclusion in St. Paul received one of six $5 million grants JPMorgan Chase awarded nationwide as part of the financial giant's "AdvancingCities Challenge" to help Black and Latina women-owned businesses.

The Center for Economic Inclusion (CEI) plans to leverage the bank grant to help 60 businesses by 2025.

The grant was a big "endorsement of our vision and what we plan to do for the community," said Tawanna Black, CEO and founder of CEI.

As part of the effort, CEI is launching Project Vanguard with partners Activate Network, Certified Access, Fearless Commerce, and NEOO Partners Inc.

Also being launched is the Vanguard Fund, which will use about $1.5 million from the JPMorgan grant to help raise another $25 million through foundations, corporations, angel and venture investors.

The plan is to target businesses in high-growth fields such as the medical, technology and finance sectors. CEI and its partners will provide the support, training, equity investments and revenue-based loans so participating firms are firmly on pace to grow from $1 million in annual revenue to $10 million, Black said. The fund also will make some investments in startups.

The goal is for those 60 companies that are being helped to create 150 new jobs, generate $5.5 million in fresh revenue, win 15 government contracts and certify 25 women of color as federally "certified" minority business enterprises that can procure city, county and state contracts.

Right now, few Black and Latina contractors have the capital to bid on government work.

CEI will work with groups such Fearless Commerce and the Activate Network to launch an eight-week "Certified Access" academy to certify the local women businesses of color and connect them to government contracts and capital opportunities.

They will also help the selected companies secure loans, and handle the unique cash flow problems that can come with government contracts and their payment delays.

CEI's sponsors include the McKnight Foundation, Target, U.S. Bank, 3M, Thrivent, Wells Fargo, Mortenson and Best Buy. JPMorgan also has made past investments in CEI, but prior amounts totaled about $1 million over several years. So the new amount "is a lot. I cried," Black said. "I'm excited about the promise of this for our entire community."

The grant builds upon JPMorgan's presence in the Twin Cities, where it has 300 workers, said Joanna Trotter, senior program officer.

"We know that doing business here comes with responsibility to support the community," Trotter said. The bank's goal is to "drive systemic changes" in cities.

JPMorgan has pledged to spend $500 million over five years in its AdvancingCities initiative to advance the long-term viability of metro areas.

This year, the bank concentrated on Black and Latina women, their families and their effects on local economies, she said.

"Given the disproportionate and detrimental impact that the COVID-19 pandemic had on women of color, we focused this challenge on serving their needs towards a more inclusive economic recovery," Trotter said.