Grand Rapids, Michigan / September 13, 2022 –
Today, the Grand Rapids Chamber is announcing the launch of the Center for Economic Inclusion as part of its member-driven mission to create a thriving and prosperous West Michigan for all.
“We are thrilled to announce the launch of the Center for Economic Inclusion to support a more dynamic economy,” said Rick Baker, President & CEO of the Chamber.“Inclusive economic development is a core component of our work because helping everyone prosper is a growth and competitiveness imperative. The Center will take our work to the next level. We are happy to announce this during Welcoming Week, which is designed to build connections and focus on the importance of being an inclusive place.”
“The Center for Economic Inclusion is a holistic approach, addressing the lived experience of entrepreneurs of color. It will connect entrepreneurs to already existing services within the ecosystem and provide opportunities through our programs and services needed for a business scale,” said Attah Obande, Vice President of Business and Talent Development at the Chamber and leader of the Center.
Businesses owned by people of color are not scaling. In Grand Rapids, less than 1% of businesses bringing in $250k or more a year are owned by a person of color. 98% of business revenue in Grand Rapids comes from white owned businesses.
“We need – and intend – to make to make a dent in these numbers. The need to effectively address barriers to entrepreneurs of color is apparent and our goal is to play a significant part in meeting it.” continued Obande.
To address the barriers facing businesses, the Center will provide technical assistance, leadership development, employee skills training, actionable plans, access to attractive lending and strategies to connect with customers.
The Center for Economic Inclusions builds upon and creates an umbrella structure for current Chamber offerings to promote economic inclusion, such as West Michigan Minority Contractors Program, Mosaic Business Collective, Diversify Your Spend Business Showcase, Elevate and more.
“The Center for Economic Inclusion is a great next step in building a better West Michigan,” said Jeff Connolly, Senior Vice President and President of West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Grand Rapids Chamber Board Chair. “When individuals in families with lower incomes have access to networks and resources that improve their upward mobility, the overall economy and community benefits. Given our collaborative spirit, I believe the Grand Rapids business community is ready to help make this a success and be a nationally leading example for economic inclusion efforts.”
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