This post was originally published on Michigan Chronicle
By Sherri Kolade
One shouldn’t need a reason to buy Black, it should be a way of life.
Such is the thought process for several Black business owners and individuals who hang their hat on the idea of supporting within to keep the Black dollar circulating longer in local neighborhoods, mom-and-pop shops, and places that need it most in the city.
The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC), which provides business assistance services and capital programs for business attraction and acceleration, recognizes the importance of buying Black by ever-highlighting Michigan’s Black-owned businesses’ growth opportunities, initiatives and successes.
Last May, Governor Gretchen Whitmer joined MEDC to announce that Michigan was approved for up to $236,990,950 in State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI) funding from the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
Headquartered at Grand Valley State University and representing a long-term collaboration between the Small Business Administration and the State of Michigan, the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) operates 11 regional offices and more than 20 satellite offices. The SBDC provides entrepreneurs and business owners with convenient access to consulting and training throughout Michigan at low or no cost.
Quentin L. Messer Jr., MEDC CEO, told the Michigan Chronicle previously that success is vital to Michigan’s small businesses, especially those in Detroit.
“We understand the importance that Detroit plays psychologically in the nation’s view — how they see Michigan,” Messer said. “You’re not going to be successful in Detroit without having a strong working relationship with the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation (DEGC).”
Despite the pandemic, looming economic uncertainties and staff shortages, local minority-owned businesses and others can reap the benefits of a stronger, more stable economy thanks to the DEGC’s intentional work.
Deana Neely, power broker, owner and CEO of Detroit Voltage LLC, a licensed and insured electrical contracting firm, told the Michigan Chronicle that buying Black to her is more than a notion but a lifestyle, both as a business owner and consumer.
“I would say that it’s important to spend money within the Black community as often as possible so that small business owners receive the money … [which] we’re also utilizing,” Neely said. “So, for me, specifically, that I’m using Black contractors when I can and that I am making sure that I hire … as many others … that I can.”
While varying statistics swirl about that a dollar circulates for a month in Asian communities, approximately 20 days in Jewish communities, 17 days in white communities, and six hours in African American communities, some truths reveal that when African American spending habits are compared to those of other ethnic groups, the dollar is leaving the neighborhood before many Black-owned businesses have a chance to touch or even see it.
“[Continuing] to make sure that those dollars are flowing in our community … is something that I do try my best to do,” Neely said, adding that it is not always “easy to do” because of not always finding services or clients she needs within arm’s reach.
Charles McKaye, a podcast host of the Detroit Metro Plug Podcast, is passionate about helping entrepreneurs and community leaders increase their reach on social media.
He told the Michigan Chronicle that on his platform he speaks to a lot of metro Detroiters, particularly people of color, who want to share a product or service they offer.
“Some people may not be aware of like businesses, services and things out there. And so, that’s my role to help to amplify what people are doing and get the word out about their business and connect the business owners to the audience that we’re trying to grow so that the Black dollar can circulate a lot better,” he said, adding that the biggest pain points for these businesses are customer retention and even building a customer base. “They are just trying to get out there.”
McKaye said that while he tries to make it a priority to buy Black he knows that it is not always possible and it’s not about excluding others but elevating inclusive buying, which can make the difference between success and failure for some Black-owned businesses.
“It’s not [that those who shop Black are] anti-other, we’re just really trying to create self-sustainability,” he said. “So, determination and empowerment of, you know, my folks who support themselves and have their own determination of what they want to do for their community and for their families.… I think that if we have strong economic growth and empowerment, we can improve our services, whether it’s donating to nonprofits or helping improve our neighborhoods or in real estate, you know, we can be self-sufficient and determine our own path. If we’re empowered.”