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Marriott International (NASDAQ: MAR) announced the first 19 projects to receive financial support and other incentives through the “Marriott’s Bridging the Gap” program.

Bridging the Gap is designed to diversify the Marriott owner and franchisee community by addressing barriers to entry in hotel ownership among historically underrepresented groups including Black, Hispanic, Native American and women owners. The program provides capital to prospective owners and franchisees along with connections to hotel developers, operators and lenders who could assist and support new hotel projects.

In total, development projects under Bridging the Gap are expected to reach $1 billion in total asset value for their ownership groups within three years. To qualify for the program, development projects may be newly-built, relicenses or conversion projects in the U.S. and Canada under one of the company’s 30 brands. The Bethesda, Maryland-headquartered lodging company introduced the program last year with a $50 million initial investment.

“We see hotel ownership as a powerful economic generator – creating good jobs and revenue in the community and an on-ramp to prosperity and inter-generational wealth for hotel owners,” said Anthony Capuano, president and CEO of Marriott International. “Today’s announcement is all about creating opportunity – and as the name of this program suggests – bridging the gap to hotel ownership that too often exists for underrepresented groups. I want to congratulate all of these future hotel owners and thank them for working with us to realize their dreams and ours.”

Photo by Dave Shea / Flickr Creative Commons