City hopes newly renovated Universal Life Insurance building will be a one-stop shop resource for entrepreneurs

New life for Universal Life Insurance building

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The Universal Life Building on the corner of Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue and Danny Thomas Boulevard has served as an iconic Memphis landmark for decades.

Founded in 1923 by Dr. J.E. Walker, A.W. Willis, Sr. and M.W. Bonner, Universal Life became the fourth largest black-owned insurance company in the nation.

After sitting empty for 18 years, the iconic building is back open and ready to welcome Memphis entrepreneurs.

"We're ready,” said Joann Massey, Director of Business Diversity and Compliance for the City of Memphis. “We're ready for the business owners to come in, to take advantage of the resources we have."

Renovations to the facility cost $6 million.

It’s a public-private partnership between the City, which occupies 43 percent of the building, and Self + Tucker Architects which owns the building.

Massey says the facility will be used as the city’s new Entrepreneurs Network Center.

"Everything in this building is free and accessible to the public. All you have to do is just come through the doors,” Massey said.

People will have access to everything from computers to books, technical assistance, a blueprint room, free training classes and much more.

The City partners with the Black Business Association, Tennessee Small Business Development Center, Small Business Administration and several other organizations to offer classes.

"We call it a one stop shop where you can come in here. We've got other different partners here and different organizations, most of all it's free," said William Richardson with the Tennessee Small Business Development Center.

The city hopes to boost minority business.

Last fiscal year about 20 percent of city contracting went to small, minority and women-owned businesses.

Massey says the city is dedicated to increasing that number.

"Our goal is at least 24 percent, but we’re definitely shooting for that 30 percent and we’re not going to stop there,” she said.

For more information about the Office of Business Diversity and Compliance and upcoming classes, click here.

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