Wyoming Kentwood Chamber forms BIPOC advisory council to convene minority business leaders

this Wyoming Kentwood Room hopes that a newly formed BIPOC Business Leaders Advisory Council will give voice to business owners and entrepreneurs from underrepresented but demographically prominent communities.

Chamber Chair Keith Morgan scheduled the first meeting in mid-October to gauge interest in the new advisory council. Morgan said 25 people attended the event from a wide variety of backgrounds and businesses that wanted to be involved. Morgan added that the first meeting focused on listening to business owners’ concerns and developing a plan to target “the most effective yet highly feasible” ways to move forward.

“One of the concerns I see is that when we bring people together, the idea hangs in the air. By that I mean we have all these ideas, so let’s solidify a few and agree on three or four action items that we can do that are highly effective and actionable,” said Morgan. MiBiz. “The measure of success will be if we can complete these items and establish some standards of measurement.”

The Wyoming Kentwood Chamber has developed an advisory council that focuses on people of color as they are a core part of the two communities. Wyoming and Kentwood are the most populous and racially diverse neighboring communities in the city of Grand Rapids.

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The city of Wyoming has an estimated population of 76,749, and the city of Kentwood has an estimated population of 54,141, according to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau as of 2021. About 52,000 people of color live in both communities, making up about 40 percent of the population. combined population.

“The BIPOC Leadership Advisory Council aims to create a space for people who are not usually at the table and ensure that their voices are heard, raise their concerns and have enough people around the table to start finding solutions to problems,” said Morgan.

Identifying challenges

The BIPOC Leader’s Advisory Council will likely meet quarterly. At the first briefing, business leaders identified the lack of workforce and the need for more workforce development tools as some of the main obstacles to their business. These are the problems most businesses face in the current economic environment, 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 help a segment of the community, and this could be a resource for larger communities or entrepreneurs to help their business,” said Morgan. “I also see an opportunity for larger businesses that aren’t owned by people of color to access a community they don’t usually have a good connection to,” Morgan said.

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Directed by Elisa Rodriguez Viewpond Banquet Hall, a new venue in Kentwood that has been open for about a year. He joined the first BIPOC Leaders Advisory Council and believes it will be a useful tool for business owners.

“It was more of a mesh that I felt we weren’t outside of a certain radius,” said Rodriguez. “Many venues book training and seminars throughout the week, but this is something we have a hard time taking advantage of. We don’t know how to network in that world.”

Many minority business owners are also unfamiliar with the tools that regional chambers of commerce can offer. Rodriguez said that bringing together minority business leaders is helpful for educating them about these resources.

“The council is absolutely necessary,” said Rodriguez. “I think people from different backgrounds who brainstorm and come together can be very powerful.”

Morgan said the Advisory Council goals include creating a mentoring program for businesses and bringing together some training and best practices. Morgan said the Wyoming Kentwood Chamber also plans to create a business directory that can help people find businesses of color more easily.

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“Some of these have already been created, so I wouldn’t say this is Earth-shattering and brand new, but our space is wide enough and there’s enough room for us to deliver these resources,” Morgan said.

Morgan said people are calling the Chamber looking for certain types of businesses to partner with, whether owned by women or Blacks. Morgan added that creating his own directory would create another online resource for these people and let others know more about different businesses.

“I realized I didn’t have the time, space, or capacity to try to separate the different types of communities, and there’s a lot of overlap and similar concerns between these communities,” Morgan said. “If we put together something a little more inclusive, we can come back to having a high impact rather than replicating the same kinds of services across separate communities.”

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