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Michigan Minority Business Owners Are Feeling Left Out

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Pictured at the Podium is Ken Harris, President and CEO of the Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce, with other local business leaders.  (credit: Pat Sweeting/WWJ)

Pictured at the Podium is Ken Harris, President and CEO of the Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce, with other local business leaders. (credit: Pat Sweeting/WWJ)

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DETROIT (WWJ) - Some black business owners say they’ve seen strong growth in Michigan, but are frustrated at not being included in major economic development projects.

The Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce held a news conference held on the sidewalk, Wednesday, next to a construction zone on Library St. at Grand River in downtown Detroit.

MBCC President, Ken Harris says minority-owned businesses are not getting their fair share of contracts, despite the growth of black business in the state — the fourth highest level in the nation — and the city being 80-percent African-American.

“There’s billions of dollars being spent, both in public, private partnerships, and African-Americans aren’t being called to the table,” said Harris. “Nor is there a discussion on how to include black-owned businesses, minority businesses, and women-owned businesses.”

Francis Wong, director of the Asian Pacific American Chamber of Commerce, says diversity in business has its advantages.

“The great strength of supplier diversity is that when you have folks of different backgrounds, you have folks who see things from a different way, folks that do things a little differently, and not everyone’s the same,” said Wong.

“So, Asian Pacific American-owned businesses — just like African-American-owned businesses and Hispanic-American-owned businesses — we bring our backgrounds,” said Wong, “we bring our cultures, we bring our people, we bring our connections.”

Harris says it’s time for Detroit to step up and embrace diversity the way other cities already have.

“Mayor Kasim Reed came here, as the mayor of Atlanta, and announced to our crowd, here in the city of Detroit, that 60 percent of all their contracts on a $3.6 billion Hartsfield Airport project — 60 percent went to minorities and black-owned businesses,” Harris said.

The Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce will release its Economic Plan and Fairness Doctrine during an urban economic conference at Cobo Center in November.

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