Alliance supporting Black-owned businesses launches with $1 million from TCF Bank

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

A business coalition aimed at supporting Black-owned businesses in Metro Detroit launched Friday with $1 million in support from TCF Bank.

The Metro-Detroit Black Business Alliance covers Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties and will be headed by Charity Dean, who left her post earlier this month as the director of the city's Office of Civil Rights, Inclusion and Opportunity. 

Charity Dean, new head of Metro-Detroit Black Business Alliance

“We will partner on programs and we will partner in advocacy ensuring that Black businesses do not just survive, but they thrive and as a result we are committed that the economy in Metro Detroit will be revived,” Dean said during a press conference at Cutters Bar & Grill in Eastern Market. Charles Nolen, the restaurant's owner, is the organization's board chair. 

The formation of the group comes as many businesses across the state face the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. It recognized the unique challenges Black business owners face during the pandemic. Dean notes that systemic and structural racism have created an unequal wealth gap in the United States. 

TCF Bank is a founding partner with the Metro Detroit Black Business Alliance and announced its support through a $1 million gift over the next five years. Gary Torgow, chairman of TCF Bank, said Friday: “We see our primary function as a bank to be able to partner up and hold hands, to be able to build Detroit and Detroit business into a better and greater opportunity for more people. 

"If everybody isn’t included, if everybody doesn’t come along and if everybody doesn’t get a mortgage to buy a house or the ability to buy a car and be able to finance it, or be able to support their business and to not be on low end of the totem pole, but the highest ends — that’s the opportunity the bank has and if a bank doesn’t do that it’s not really fulfilling its mission in America.”

TCF’s commitment to the new alliance comes after the bank announced in July $1 billion in loans to minority- and women-owned small businesses. TCF Bank will merge around June 1 with Huntington Bank, which had announced in September a $5 billion, five-year lending program for Michigan.

“These two organizations combined are not only Michigan’s hometown bank, but are fully committed to opportunity to do everything we possibly can as an institution to do what banks are supposed to do, which is to support businesses like what’s going to happen here with the Metro Detroit Black Alliance,” Torgow said. 

Dean said the organization will have programming and support services for Black businesses around the Metro Detroit area: “We will advocate strongly and directly for policy that uplift and directly contributes to the success of Black businesses." 

The Alliance also will have mentorship and networking as well as a Buy Black business directory to keep money circulating in the Black business community, Dean said. A resource office is planned that will offer members free access to Internet and coffee and a board room and coworking space.

Clement "Fame" Brown, the owner of the clothing store Three Thirteen, on Friday lauded the alliance's mission. He said that as a young Black male starting his business out of his home and trunk in Detroit, he had to work through stereotypes and generalizations. He said he didn’t have support or a bank to take out a loan.

"What the alliance means is there’s more of us,” he said. “There’s power in numbers.”

Today Brown has two store locations, which he achieved without taking out a bank loan, he said. Brown said he was intentional in opening his business on Livernois, along the Avenue of Fashion with numerous Black-owned businesses and also downtown at Parker’s Alley, which he said needed diversity. 

“I’m super excited to be part of an alliance that’s going to help bolster what we’re trying to do," he said.

Sen. Sylvia Santana, D-Detroit, said when she was a lending officer she saw the power of lending programs without traditional barriers, which often benefited Black-owned businesses.

“The risk was well worth it because those business owners expanded their opportunities and also expanded opportunities for others to be employed and have access to capital,” she said. Santana expects the alliance will be able to support businesses through challenges such as corridor reconstruction projects and the pandemic.

“Through COVID we’ve had so many business owners who are just sustaining themselves making it check to check and some who have not been able to recoup,” she said. “I think that this is what’s needed moving forward.”

The Black business alliance, or MDBBA, offers various subscription levels to meet a range of needs, from a single entrepreneur to corporations. Membership is also available for non-Black business owners and non-business owners. General membership ranges from $300 annually for a business with one or two employees to $1,200 annually for those with more than 50 employees.

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Twitter: @CWilliams_DN