PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The region’s African American Chamber of Commerce is gearing up to celebrate 30 years of dedicated advocacy for economic empowerment in the tri-state’s Black communities.
The African American Chamber of Commerce was formed in 1993 in response to a legal challenge by the contractors association, claiming African American firms were not getting city contracts. President and CEO Regina Hairston says an executive order recently signed into law by Gov. Josh Shapiro breaks down some of those barriers.
“And it is the African American Chamber of Commerce voice that is leading advocacy to make sure that getting contracts in this region in the city, and the ease of doing business is always conducive to Black firms,” she said.
Black owned businesses in the region have grown in quantity through the years, but not in revenue or size.
In Philadelphia, prior to COVID-19, there were about 1.8 Black businesses per 1,000 residents, with Black residents representing 44% of the population.
“What we don’t see is the businesses that are not represented in that number because they don’t have employees,” Hairston said. “So that’s the SBA size standards of what a small business is. When we look at how many businesses that are actually out there, it’s more of 27% of the businesses in Philadelphia.”
Hairston says the goal of the chamber is to not only advance business ownership, but to grow current businesses.
Hairston says they plan to grow their programs, like the Invest in Black Philly initiative, which was inspired from the Tulsa Race massacre where dozens of Black owned businesses were destroyed in Oklahoma in 1921, snatching away any chance at generational wealth for those families.
“And so we knew that we had to have an initiative that puts a focus on supporting Black businesses, making sure that the Black dollar circulates more than six hours within our communities, which it currently does, and so that means we wanted to be intentional about where our dollars go,” she explained.
She says the chamber will continue to help Black businesses thrive in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.
The chamber will commemorate their 30th anniversary at Lincoln Financial Field on Sept. 20.