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Seedco, the Structured Employment Economic Development Corporation, is a national, nonprofit, community development organization that works with local organizations in low-income communities to promote economic advancement and help people move out of poverty. Seedco partners with local community-based organizations (CBOs) to provide assistance to job seekers, workers, and small business owners in disadvantaged communities. Seedco's headquarters are located in New York City and the organization does work in Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Tennessee, Texas, and Washington, D.C. Seedco also invests in low-income communities in many areas of the country through its subsidiary, Seedco Financial, to create jobs and support small business owners.
Seedco’s major initiatives include the following:
- Workforce Development — preparing low-income individuals for work through services such as job training and career counseling
- Asset Building — connecting low-wage workers to public benefits such as food stamps, health insurance, and housing counseling
- Small Business Assistance — providing financial and technical assistance to small business owners in New York City
Seedco was founded in 1987 as a community development intermediary with funding from the Ford Foundation to help urban institutions such as universities and hospitals revive their inner cities. By 1997, Seedco had partnerships with 105 institutions and 90 community-based groups in 58 sites nationally.
Beginning in 1998, Seedco embarked on a new series of programs that allowed local community-based organizations to enhance their efforts in providing employment services to welfare recipients. Seedco formed a network of CBOs in New York City called the EarnFair Alliance and provided local CBOs with funding, training, operational support, and technical assistance that enabled them to focus on delivering quality job training and career counseling services to residents of disadvantaged communities. By 2004, the EarnFair alliance had 10 CBO partners, annually placed more than 1,000 low-income people into jobs, was funded by about $6 million a year in government contracts, and had been recognized as a Promising Practice by the U.S. Department of Labor. In 2006, EarnFair placed 4,400 individuals into jobs at an average starting wage of $10.80 an hour.
Following the September 11 attacks in Lower Manhattan, Seedco was asked by the Ford Foundation, the New York Times Foundation, and others to implement a disaster-recovery initiative for small businesses and their workers. The Lower Manhattan Small Business & Workforce Retention Project ultimately issued more than $26 million in loans, offered more than $8 million in grants, and provided technical assistance to nearly 400 businesses and organizations. The $45 million program was credited with saving or creating over 6,000 jobs in Lower Manhattan.
Seedco has continued its model of CBO networks and now develops new and innovative programs in the fields of workforce development, asset building, career advancement, small business services, housing assistance, and community lending. Seedco mobilizes public and private funding and coordinates these programs across its networks of CBOs in New York City and around the country.
Barbara Dwyer Gunn is the President and CEO of Seedco. George A. Pruitt is its Chairman.
City & Federal Investigation of Fraud
In August 2011 the New York Times published an article in which a whistle-blower came forward with evidence of fraudulent job placements being submitted at the Seedco operated Workforce1 Career Center in Upper Manhattan. The center was operated under contract with the New York City Department of Small Business Services and supported with federal Workforce Investment Act (WIA) funds. An investigation by the New York City Department of Investigation found that Seedco had falsely claimed to have helped at least 1,400 people with finding jobs. The report stated that Seedco “developed systematic practices to report false placements” to the city’s Department of Small Business Services. As a result the New York City Department of Small Business Services transferred Seedco's $7 million annual contract to several other nonprofit organizations. The US Attorney's Office also launched an investigation into Seedco (and seven former managers) and filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit claiming:
"SEEDCO and the Individual Defendants engaged in this fraudulent scheme to maintain SEEDCO’s contract in connection with its Upper Manhattan Workforce1 Career Center, and to acquire its contract to operate a WorkForce1 Career Center in the Bronx, as well as to increase its compensation in connection with both centers. SEEDCO caused false and inflated placement figures to be reported through New York City and New York State to the United States Department of Labor to receive federal subsidies for its job program. Moreover, through their participation in the fraud, the Individual Defendants maintained or acquired managerial positions. Each of the Individual Defendants who did not already hold the position of Center Director at the beginning of their work with SEEDCO achieved a promotion during the period in which he or she participated in the fraud."
In December 2012 Seedco agreed to pay $1.725 million as a settlement of the civil fraud lawsuit brought by the US Attorney's Office.
Seedco continues to operate the Navigator program, renewed in September of 2014.
- Seedco official web site
- Seedco Financial official web site
- Information of Seedco's Lower Manhattan Small Business & Workforce Retention Project
- New York Times article on Seedco's EarnMore Career Advancement Program
- Information on New York City's OpportunityNYC Program, administered by Seedco
- New York Times Article on Seedco's Small Business Efforts
- A Profile of an Affiliate in Seedco's National Housing Counseling Network
- New York Times article on Seedco's Workforce1 Career Center investigation by the New York City Department of Investigation
- New York Times article on Seedco's settlement with the US Attorney's Office
- Powell, M. (2011, August 8). When Scandal Is Outsourced . New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/09/nyregion/seedco-official-reports-fraud-in-jobs-program.html
- Hearn, R. G. (2012, March) Investigation of Seedco's Workforce Center Contracts with the New York City Department of Small Business Services. Retrieved from http://www.nyc.gov/html/doi/downloads/pdf/mar12/Seedco%20Report%20March%202012.pdf
- Powell, M (2012, March 9) Fraud Found in Jobs Effort; Blow to Bloomberg . New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/10/nyregion/city-job-agency-accused-of-filing-false-job-claims.html?pagewanted=all
- The United States Attorney's Office Southern District of New York (2012). Manhattan U.S. Attorney Sues SEEDCO And Seven Former Managers For Falsely Reporting Job Placements In A Federally-Funded Program [Press release]. Retrieved from http://www.justice.gov/usao/nys/pressreleases/May12/seedcocomplaint.html
- Powell, M. (2012, December 19). Agency Will Pay $1.7 Million for False Job Placement Claims. New York Times. Retrieved from http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/19/agency-will-pay-1-7-million-for-false-job-placement-claims/