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SOUTH-CENTRAL : $25,000 Grant to Aid Business Start-Ups

With the help of a $25,000 grant, a Los Angeles economic development agency plans to turn a former pharmaceuticals company into a training and “incubator” facility for fledgling local businesses.

First Interstate Bank recently awarded the grant to the Vermont-Slauson Economic Development Corp. to help fund the make-over of a 10,000-square-foot industrial building at 6109 S. Western Ave.

“We are very excited that people are interested in contributing to our work,” said Marva Smith Battle-Bey, executive director of the 13-year-old development agency that seeks to revitalize the Vermont-Slauson area.

Rehabilitation is scheduled to start next month, and the agency’s new Business Enterprise Center is expected to open in June.

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Battle-Bey said the bank’s gift means her private, nonprofit agency has successfully raised the $300,000 needed to revamp the building.

Hugh Loftus, First Interstate’s community development vice president, said the bank awarded the funds because of the development corporation’s work to “expand economic opportunities for individuals, families and businesses.”

First Interstate plans to invest $2 billion in community development projects statewide over the next eight years. Once refurbished, the former Akorn Inc. building will be home to the development agency’s 12-year-old entrepreneur-training program, which offers classes on marketing, financing, record keeping and planning.

In addition, the Business Enterprise Center will feature roughly 33 “incubator offices” for fledgling businesses. These start-ups, which cannot otherwise afford their own office expenses, will pay reduced rent and share administrative and secretarial costs.

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“The idea is for them to stay until they are financially successful enough to sustain themselves,” Battle-Bey said.

Tisha Silvers-Hall is one aspiring entrepreneur who hopes to benefit from the program. For 1 1/2 years, Silvers-Hall has been working to launch an office-management and secretarial-services firm.

One thing standing in her way, however, has been her inability to buy computer equipment for bookkeeping, desktop publishing and other administrative services. Silvers-Hall plans to use the business center’s shared computer facilities to generate enough work and money to buy her own equipment.

Information: (213) 753-2335.

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