Building businesses

Pastor Ben Anderson (left) and the Solid Rock Community Development Corp. receive a $130,000 grant for the Fresh Start Investment Program. The program will kick off with an informational session on Jan. 19.  (EXPRESS PHOTO/REGAN FOSTER)
Pastor Ben Anderson (left) and the Solid Rock Community Development Corp. receive a $130,000 grant for the Fresh Start Investment Program. The program will kick off with an informational session on Jan. 19. (EXPRESS PHOTO/REGAN FOSTER)

Solid Rock CDC to launch entrepreneurship training program for those impacted by prison system

Pastor Ben Anderson is a man on a mission. 

“There are three things we really want to be able to do: Affordable housing, business development and infrastructure improvements,” said Anderson, the driving force behind Solid Rock Christian Center and the Solid Rock Community Development Corp. (CDC) in Southeast Colorado Springs. “Hopefully within the next year, we’ll be on board with all three.”

That’s no small feat by any calculation. But when you consider that Anderson is partnering with the area’s leading community redevelopment advocates to address these issues while simultaneously leading a congregation, it becomes even more impressive.

“This community … has been neglected over the years,” the 15-year Southeast spiritual leader said. “It has the most vibrancy of people and diversity, and yet it lacks updates.

“We need to have some investment dollars.”

He’s hoping to grow some of that investment in the most grassroots way possible.

The pastor and CDC will launch a new program in January geared at turning the formerly incarcerated into successful entrepreneurs and employees. Dubbed the Fresh Start Investment Program, the eight-week initiative will help those who have been directly impacted by the prison system – either because they have been incarcerated or have a family member who was — become a business owner.

It was funded with the aide of a $130,000 grant from the Transforming Safety initiative. That three-year program earmarks and reinvests $4 million annually for small business lending and grants in an effort to plug the prison pipeline and reduce recidivism.

It’s a new approach to preventing crime by strengthening communities, and the funds are restricted to programs that serve Southeast Colorado Springs and Aurora. And it was a natural fit for Anderson’s initiative.

“Fresh Start Investment Program addresses the limited access to education, skills, training and economic opportunity for men, women and youth with criminal histories by creating empathy and providing hope, hands-on mentoring, community support and a clear path to economic security through employment or entrepreneurship,” a statement released by the CDC reflected.

To kick off the program, Anderson and the CDC will host an informational session for could-be participants from 10 to 11 a.m. Jan. 19 at Solid Rock Christian Center, 2520 Arlington Drive. The class is free and open to the public, and registration is not required.

Anderson said it is important for anyone interested in joining Fresh Start to attend. That way they will have a solid understanding of what the coming weeks will bring.

The investment classes begin at 5 p.m. Jan. 23 with sessions continuing from 5 to 8 p.m. every Wednesday for eight weeks. Graduates who complete the program could receive assistance in launching their small business, Anderson said. To qualify, proposed companies mus be based in Southeast. 

The CDC is partnering with industry experts like Axiom Business Development and the Pikes Peak Small Business Development Center on the initiative, Anderson said.

All of which are adding up to an exciting start to 2019.

“(It) is going to be a super year,” Anderson said. “It’s going to be a year of some fantastic work and some successes, too.”

regan.foster@southeastexpress.org

CHECK IT OUT

Who: Solid Rock Community Development Corp.
What: Fresh Start Investment Program informational session
When: 10 to 11 a.m. Jan. 19
Where: Solid Rock Christian Center, 2520 Arlington Drive
For more details: solidrockcdc.com/current-projects/#tab_fresh-start-investment-program

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