Black Chamber Makes 'Game Changer' Move

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

"This can be the catalyst to get other national organizations to see how important it is that we harmonize; synergize, and energize our efforts," says Grant as he listed several major Black organizations. "At the end of the day, all of these organizations have constituencies that go all over America, all of these organizations handle money and their members handle money... You start with the leadership of these organizations and you say 'Listen, we need to do a better job at harvesting our own wealth. Yes, we want to look to politicians to do things and yes we may ask the corporations to be more fair about their hiring and their contracting and so forth, but what are we supposed to do?'"

Grant continued, "To me, I don't think that we should keep asking others and passively sitting back and waiting for others to deliver for us. We should be proactive and aggressive about making sure that economic opportunity exists in the Black community. So, all of us are national organizations; we've already got people; we've already got constituents, right? We've already got resources. So, let's set the example."

A "national action plan" in this regard will be announced July 27 during the USBC's School of Chamber Management conference at Georgetown University in D.C., Busby says.

In a nutshell, the plan is described as a strategic national movement in which Black chambers - and ultimately Black businesses and Black organizations - will be encouraged to open accounts in Black banks. Among the initial cities are Phoenix, Ariz.; Austin, Texas; Atlanta, New York City, and Detroit, Busby said.

"And so we're going into those six cities and saying, 'Okay, here's your local Black bank. We need to make sure that they're successful as well. We need to move as many of our loans, our bank accounts, our savings accounts into Black-owned banks.'"

Busby points out that the strategy is actually a part of the USBC's "solution-oriented" mission statement, which deals with supporting African-American businesses and banks based on five pillars:

*Advocacy: Fighting for legislation, programs and policies that promote small business growth.

*Access to capital: Creating avenues "by which Black businesses can gain greater access to credit, capital and other financial instruments."

*Contracting: Helping members "gain access to business opportunities" in private and public sectors.

*Entrepreneurial training: Assisting Black business leaders in achieving "stellar performance and growth through entrepreneur and business management training."

*Chamber development: The growth and expansion of new chambers around the nation.

The new strategy will focus mainly on three of the pillars. They are access to capital, contracting and entrepreneurial training, Busby said.

Throughout history, Black leaders have attempted various economic strategies to strengthen the Black community as whole, most of which have failed. Grant explains that the greatest hurdle to this movement will be galvanizing the masses in the same direction and convincing people to think about community rather than just about their own organizations or households.

"The civil rights movement was the last time that over time we came together and we all got some kind of agreement - if you will - on one accord about what we wanted. The civil rights movement ended up changing a lot of people's minds and attitudes because the reward was so close in front of them," Grant said. "If you want to change behavior, you have to use positive reinforcement so that rewards for the new behavior are strong enough."