Black business coalition aims to share in Detroit boom
Black-owned accounting, architecture, construction, engineering and law firms are joining forces to increase the number of black-owned businesses on major construction projects in the city of Detroit.
The Detroit Coalition for Economic Inclusion is an initiative of the National Business League, the nation's oldest trade association for black-owned businesses. It is seeking to implement policy changes that will give black-owned businesses a fair shot at opportunities to work on major development projects in the city and create a model to be used in other communities, said Greg Bowens, the organization's spokesman.
"When you have that kind of thing going on, where most of the companies that can be involved in development but can’t be, not for lack of ability, but lack of opportunity, it gives people pause," Bowens said. "It's not that folks haven't tried."
The coalition includes 35 business leaders and five other business associations. The organization launched June 13 a survey of black-owned businesses in Southeast Michigan that will continue through Aug. 13. The coalition will use their responses on their business experiences and inclusion efforts by the state of Michigan, Wayne County and city of Detroit to determine where to focus its work.
The group also is tabulating the number of minority-owned business contractors used for major developments in the city and is organizing a conference later this year to develop strategies to encourage greater inclusivity across disciplines.
Tarolyn Buckles, CEO of Detroit-based civil engineering firm Onyx Enterprise Inc. and president of the National Association of Minority Consulting Engineers, hopes to see greater opportunities through requirements of mentor-protege programs that pair black-owned and small businesses with larger, more experienced companies. Such opportunities have helped her business's net profit to increase annually up to 40%.
"We hear there’s so much discussion on the growth and the entrepreneurship in Detroit," Buckles said. "We just want to emphasize that we want Detroiters, Detroit black-owned businesses working on the projects in the city in which we live and work. We want to be a part of this."