Who We Are

Who We Are

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Our mission is to sustain the economic revitalization of all communities in Upper Manhattan through job creation, corporate alliances, strategic investments, and small business assistance.

Founding History

Upper Manhattan was designated as an urban empowerment zone (Empowerment Zone) under federal legislation authored by Congressman Charles B. Rangel and signed into law by President Clinton in 1994. The Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone Development Corporation (UMEZ), which is an independent not-for-profit corporation, was formed in response to the federal empowerment zone legislation. Funding for UMEZ is provided by the federal government with matching amounts from the City of New York and the State of New York. UMEZ’s ongoing operations are not dependent on the extension of the federal empowerment zone legislation, which has been extended periodically, and UMEZ expects to continue to operate if the Empowerment Zone notwithstanding the status of the legislation.

In the summer of 2017, UMEZ became a recognized Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI). UMEZ is proud to be certified by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund as a part of a national network promoting economic growth by financing businesses, creating jobs, and rebuilding neighborhoods.


Where & Who

UMEZ facilitates economic development in West, Central, and East Harlem; Inwood; and Washington Heights.


By the close of 2016 UMEZ provided funding for:

for a total of almost $238 million of investments.

UMEZ investments have leveraged over $1.1 billion of private capital invested in Upper Manhattan, and this commitment has created nearly 10,000 direct jobs thus far.

Business Investments

UMEZ supports projects that provide new job creation as well as those that would be under capitalized without our loan capital. Rather than competing with traditional lenders, we tend to augment (or “gap fund”) the level of private capital provided. 

Small Business Loans

UMEZ’s Business Resource Investment Service Center, Inc. (BRISC), a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), continues to make loans between $50,000 and $250,000 aimed at small business formation and/or expansion to create local wealth and economic vitality for Upper Manhattan. These loans may be senior or subordinated financing, depending on the other sources of capital for the project, and are set at an affordable interest rate, with flexible terms based on the cash flows, job generation, and level of collateral for the project. 

Cultural Investments

UMEZ has established the Cultural Investment Fund (CIF) to support nonprofit cultural organizations and artist-driven projects in Upper Manhattan. Grants are designed to build administrative capacity, support organizational development, and promote sustainability.  These investments lead to greater visitorship, new jobs, increased economic activity and foster recognition for Upper Manhattan as one of the City's most dynamic cultural hubs.

Workforce Development

UMEZ’s Workforce Development Initiative has a demand-driven strategy that supports the building of skills and knowledge of residents in a way that responds to the needs and expectations of employers. The initiative provides financial and technical assistance to catalyze employment and training in Upper Manhattan neighborhoods. The goal of the initiative is to facilitate access to quality jobs and career advancement opportunities for unemployed—and underemployed—residents.