the Wyoming Kentwood Chamber hopes that a newly formed BIPOC Business Leader Advisory Council will give voice to business owners and entrepreneurs from under-represented but prominent demographic communities.
Chamber President Keith Morgan scheduled the first meeting for mid-October to gauge interest in the new advisory council. The event drew 25 people from a wide range of backgrounds and businesses who wanted to participate, Morgan said. The first meeting focused on listening to business owners’ concerns and developing a plan to target the “most impactful but most actionable” ways to move forward, Morgan added.
“One of the concerns that I see is when we gather people, the idea is in the ether. With this I say, we have all these ideas, so let’s consolidate some and agree of the three or four actionable things we can do with impact and action,” Morgan said. MiBiz. “The measure of success is when we can complete things and create some benchmarks.”
The Wyoming Kentwood Chamber has created an advisory council that focuses on people of color because they are a core part of both communities. Wyoming and Kentwood are the two most populous and most racially diverse neighboring communities in the city of Grand Rapids.
The city of Wyoming has an estimated population of 76,749, while the city of Kentwood has an estimated population of 54,141, according to the latest US Census Bureau data from 2021. About 52,000 people of color live in the two communities. , which makes up about 40 percent of the combined population.
“The BIPOC Leader Advisory Council aims to create a space for people who are usually not at the table and make them feel heard, have a voice and express their concerns and have enough people around the table to start looking solutions to problems,” said Morgan.
The BIPOC Leader Advisory Council will likely hold quarterly meetings. Business leaders in the first information meeting identified the lack of workers and a need for more tools to develop workers as some of the main obstacles to their businesses. These are issues that most businesses face in the current economic climate, but by focusing on how to help people of color, the goal is to bridge the gap between all businesses, Morgan said. .
“There’s a lot that can be done to help one part of the community, and that can be a resource for the larger community or entrepreneurs to help their business,” Morgan said. “I also see an opportunity for large businesses that aren’t owned by people of color to reach out to a community that they typically don’t have a connection to,” Morgan said.
Elisa Rodriguez is in charge Viewpond Banquet Hall, a new place that has been open for about a year in Kentwood. He attended the first BIPOC Leaders Advisory Council and believes it is a useful tool for business owners.
“It’s more about networking that I feel like we’re not tapping outside of a certain radius,” Rodriguez said. “During the week, a lot of places book trainings and seminars, but that’s something we have a hard time tapping into. We don’t know how to network in that world.
Many minority business owners are also unfamiliar with the tools available to area chambers of commerce. Convening minority business leaders is useful in educating about resources, Rodriguez said.
“The council is really necessary,” said Rodriguez. “I think people brainstorming and coming together from different backgrounds can be very powerful.”
The Advisory Council’s goals include forming a mentoring program for businesses and putting together some training and best practices, Morgan said. The Wyoming Kentwood Chamber also plans to put up a business directory that will help people easily find businesses owned by people of color, Morgan said.
“Some of these things have already been done, so I wouldn’t say it’s Earth shattering and new, but our area is big enough and there’s enough space for us to offer these resources as well,” said said Morgan.
People call the Chamber looking for specific types of businesses to partner with that are women-owned or Black-owned, Morgan said. Creating your own directory can create another online resource for people and make others more aware of different businesses, Morgan added.
“For me, I realized that I don’t have the time, space and capacity to try to separate different types of communities, and there are many overlaps and similar concerns that occur throughout these communities,” Morgan said. “When we put together something that’s more comprehensive, we can come back with a higher impact than having to duplicate the same types of services in different communities.”
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