Ángel Rodriguez. Senior Vice President of Land Services at PHDC and PHDC/Executive Director of the Philadelphia Land Bank. (Foto: Cortesía/Impacto)

On August 25, the City of Philadelphia, and the Philadelphia Housing Development Corporation (PHDC) announced the launch of the Minority Developer Program (MDP), a pilot program described in the press release as “a hands-on, business assistance program for small developers and contractors in Philadelphia…designed to promote wealth creation and business growth among minority developers.”  The MDP will “provide technical assistance, as well as leverage public land and funding to create opportunities for minority developers to obtain contracts for real estate development projects.”

Impacto sat down with Angel Rodriguez, Senior Vice President of Land Services at PHDC and PHDC/Executive Director of the Philadelphia Land Bank, to learn more about the program:

Angel, thanks for taking the time to share details about this program with Impacto’s readers.  What is the goal of the MDP program?

Our goal is to train minority business owners in the development and construction fields – to help them build wealth, but also credibility, character, and reputation.  In this business, once you complete a building, you can drive through the city and point to it and say, “I built that.”    As developers complete more projects, that becomes their portfolio, and whatever they build will exist for 80 to 100 years.  They are building the city, as they also build their own skills and expertise.  In a very deliberate and structured way, this program is opening opportunities for Black, Latino, and other minority developers and contractors to step up and earn some of the market share of the city’s contracts. 

There is a lot of opportunity in Philadelphia right now, due to the growth across the city.  Minority developers lack access, but also capacity.  How will this program address both issues?

We aim to develop an ecosystem of highly capable developers in the market.  For developers with less experience, it can be challenging to navigate the city’s processes. We can’t change the legislative regulations, but we can teach people how to navigate, and grow their business.  We can help with the steep learning curve as developers make the jump from building five properties, to ten to fifteen, or twenty or more. There are big differences in how you operate at a larger scale. 

In the first three years, with two cohorts, we will build a pipeline that starts with high-touch, hands-on training.  After completing training, participants can immediately apply the knowledge by bidding for projects and land. And if they win a contract, we won’t walk away while they’re building – we will partner them with mentors in the industry.  It goes beyond learning how to successfully bid for projects; it means learning how to conduct business, how to represent yourself, and how to think like a successful developer.  You can only learn that by being around people in that environment.  This will always be about minority developers thinking, “I’m going to the next level” – and then being equipped to do it.

What do you hope for the future of the ecosystem in Philadelphia?

One of my indicators will be how many contracts are awarded, because that’s where the money is, and that means they’re in the game.  We benefit from business owners being successful. But this is also very important and impactful for communities.  PHDC has land available for disposition in transitional neighborhoods, where there are issues of gentrification, a crisis of affordability, and a great need to develop more affordable housing. The families and kids that move into new homes are the impact – they are the future of Philadelphia. To have people who represent Philadelphia build the future for Philadelphia, as role models for their neighbors, is the ultimate vision.

Apply by 3 PM September 27, 2021 at https://phdcphila.org/rfps-rfqs-sales/professional-services-rfps/

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