Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce’s Ken Harris Talks State of Black Business
The Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce, a comparatively young organization, has made tremendous strides on behalf of Michigan-based minority businesses since its launch in February of 2011. Ken Harris, MBCC’s, president and CEO, is widely known for his innovative approach to economic challenges in Detroit and the surrounding region. Harris has been lauded for his work to eliminate disparity in opportunities for minority-owned businesses throughout the state. Rolling out spoke with the celebrated business activist and recent recipient of the Michigan Chronicle’s Men of Excellence Award, about the organization’s commitment to advocate aggressively on behalf of black owned firms.
It’s been an exciting time for Michigan’s Black Chamber of Commerce, since you officially opened your doors in February of 2011. What has happened since then?
We have been pushing a serious economic agenda throughout the state of Michigan and nationally. Now Michigan has become one of the largest black chambers of commerce in the country in just a year’s time … and will open other chapters … this fall. The amount of synergy when you have access to more than 79,000 black-owned firms … makes business owners excited to be a a part of something that unifies them throughout the entire sate, but also serves to mobilize them effectively so we can effect change.
What is it the the MBCC can do that other minority business organizations struggle to do?
We are a 501(C)6 trade association which allows us to lobby and endorse candidates on the state level, local municipality level and the federal level as well. So this allows us to play into the political game that has [eluded] the African American community for far too long. Now business owners are stepping in front of politicians to say, ‘Hey we are the one’s who are usually writing the checks, so now we need to make sure that we are putting people in office who understand the wants and needs of African American business owners so we can create change. … We also assist with access to capital, training, resources and technology, and contracting and procurement opportunities.
What’s next for the MBCC?
Along with chartering more chapters across the state, we have our State of Black Business Conference which is coming up on Sept. 13. in which we will have panel discussions, black entrepreneur success stories, a resource panel with the SBA and the federal government, and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation … will be here to talk to AA business owners. And the presidents of all the local black chambers of commerce will participate in a panel discussion regarding how they founded their organizations and the impact it’s had on their communities.
In addition we have a big event in D.C. We’re hosting out Congressional Black Caucus Michigan Delegation Reception on Sept. 21. Roland Martin will act as our host and we have Eric Benet performing for the concert and Ford Motor Company is sponsoring that event. We are hosting all of the Michigan legislature in D.C. and our congressional leadership … So we’ve got a lot going on.
For more information visit www.michiganblackchamberofcommerce.com or call 313.309.3316