Black Chamber Makes 'Game Changer' Move

Hazel Trice Edney | 7/31/2012, 9:52 a.m.

WASHINGTON (TriceEdneyWire.com) - Ron Busby appeared reflective as he sat at the mahogany board room table at Industrial Bank, a Black-owned establishment, based in North West Washington, D.C. Busby, the president/CEO of the U. S. Black Chamber Inc. (USBC) then summed up his thoughts in one sentence:

"This is a game changer," he declared.

Amidst an economic downturn that has pulverized segments of the Black community with record unemployment and loss of wealth across the nation, Busby had just opened a U. S. Black Chamber account with Industrial. The deposit was a calculated move to start a new relationship that he hopes will spread into a national movement that will strengthen Black financial institutions and ultimately uplift the community at large.

"I believe that Industrial has a success story that is unequaled," he continued in the interview. "And if you really look at the statistics in reference to not only Industrial, but other minority and Black-owned banks, you'll see that they are in our communities; they lend money to our businesses as well as our local communities. And so, for the average reader across the country that's going to pick this up, I think it is game changing because now you have a national organization that's not just talking about a solution but is actually actively participating in the solution."

The USBC deposit was in fact another significant stride in the history of the 75-year-old Industrial. The bank started with six employees and $192,000 in assets in 1934 and now has 150 employees and more than $333 million in assets. With Industrial Bank pioneers Jesse H. Mitchell, founder, and B. Doyle Mitchell Sr., president, adorning the board room wall in portraits; Busby underscored the significance of the new business partnership.

"This will be our primary bank," Busby said. "We will probably do about a half million dollars of business a year that will run through this particular bank."

The 4-year-old Black Chamber, Inc. boasts about 108 chambers in 22 states and 240,000 members - mostly Black-owned businesses. The ultimate strategy, if it works as outlined by Industrial President/CEO B. Doyle Mitchell Jr., would benefit the community.

"The more deposits we have, the more we're able to lend out," Mitchell says. "In order to grow, you've got to have deposits."

Mitchell, also chairman of the National Bankers Association (NBA), envisions a spread of the movement. "I do see it as a partnership, but I also see it as an encouragement to other Black national organizations and Black companies to do more business with each other because I think we trail everybody in trying to do business with each other and keeping money in our own communities. I think with the U. S. Black Chamber being the top notch organization that they are, I think it's a big leadership step for them and for Ron to take that initiative."

Mitchell and Busby both serve on the Small Business Administration's Council on Underserved Communities, where they first began this conversation. They have concluded that - in addition to government initiatives - the African-American community must step up its activities to revitalize itself. To make that happen, Mitchell and Busby are strategizing with Michael Grant, president of NBA, which has a membership of 37 mostly Black-owned banks.