Mayor George Heartwell welcomed the local group that was officially founded in July with 37 charter members and Patrick Miles, Jr. as President and CEO.
Ken Harris, MBCC’s President and CEO, heralded the local Black chamber as the first in the city of Grand Rapids and as the first in MBCC’s effort to launch organizations in each urban area within the state of Michigan.
|PATRICK A MILES JR. is president and CEO of the Grand Rapids Black Chamber
MBCC’s economic agenda is based on five pillars: advocacy, access to capital, chamber development, best practices and contracting.
“We are coming together, focusing on the future,” said Ken Harris, MBCC’s president and CEO. “We not only have an advocacy here in this city, but statewide and nationally, on a playing field that advocates economic parity in a collective voice.”
Grand Rapids, the second largest city in Michigan after Detroit was selected because of its resources and connectivity to businesses.
The African-American population comprises nearly 22 percent of the total Grand Rapids population.
Harris and Miles spoke to the audience of GRBCC charter members, city commissioners and representatives from local corporations about the potential for economic growth and empowerment of Black-owned businesses in Grand Rapids and in the west side of the state.
Harris said, “We are a community that has not connected the dots effectively toward economic development. That day has changed.”
Michigan has more than 70,000 Black businesses with $8.3 billion in consumer purchasing power. “The majority of those businesses are East of Lansing,” Miles said. “Grand Rapids has always been an entrepreneurial city, a collaborative city. We know we need to do better and more to create more jobs, better jobs and better living conditions. We know we have a city of sound family-owned businesses. We need to make sure that all aspects of our society are doing that.”
He continued, “We know we need to work together, so that Black businesses are growing stronger and will earn $50 million, $250 million, a $billion in sales. We are viable businesses. We are not asking for handouts, not asking anyone to do charity work.”
The local chamber has access to a state-wide and a national network of nearly two million African American businesses associated with the U.S. Black Chamber of Commerce.
Miles said the top immediate priorities for GRBCC are communication, increasing membership, and developing a strategic plan.
The immediate priority for state-wide network is to increase the membership and develop a legislative agenda.