Representatives from 17 countries expected to attend Oct. 23-27 at MGM Grand
Those of us who live and work in Detroit know that, despite the positive and encouraging signs that things just might be getting better, we cannot by any means legitimately say that we have turned the corner just yet. No need to repeat the statistics for the umpteenth time. We just know the full story, and are doing our best to remain cautiously optimistic.
That said, those who don’t live here are checking out Detroit from a distance and, more and more frequently, are gleefully drinking the Kool Aid and comparing the design of each other’s rose-colored glasses as they spread the news that Detroit is all revitalized and back with a vengeance. But that kind of partially uninformed enthusiasm may actually be a good thing, because perception often leads to reality. And if the bright and shiny narrative that Detroit is now Bright and Shiny is becoming contagious, then perhaps that improves the odds that this will actually come to pass for the entire city.
Which brings me to this: the World Conference of Mayors is coming to Detroit in a little less than two weeks. They chose Detroit because – you guessed it – the conference organizers sincerely believe Detroit’s comeback is the real deal, and they want to highlight Detroit’s progress in a way that will help to attract not only international investment, from African countries in particular, but to provide business expansion opportunities for local Detroit black businesses and entrepreneurs in Africa and elsewhere around the world.
In short, hosting this conference could quite possibly open the door to the Next Big Step for Detroit’s black business community, which consequently has the potential to dramatically uplift Detroit’s black community as a whole via a strengthened black Detroit economy.
“The [black] community doesn’t have access to capital. And if I can bring capital to the community, we might have a shot at this,” said Rev. Jim Holley, who has traveled back and forth to several African countries meeting with various leaders to encourage participation in the conference. His company, Cognos Marketing LLC, has worked together with the World Conference of Mayors to convene the event in Detroit.
“Everything is happening downtown, and around downtown, but it’s the community. We do feel like if the people in the City of Detroit don’t have access to capital, they can’t help the community. Also, it’s an opportunity for these businesses in the City of Detroit also to do work in Africa. We’ve got to explore beyond the horizon. It means that we are so much in our comfort zone, that we basically are losing opportunities because we don’t want to explore. And there’s not enough work in Detroit. We’ve got more construction companies than we have work.”
The theme of the conference, which will be held October 23-27 at the MGM Grand Detroit Hotel, is Sustaining Economic Growth and Development in 21st Century Cities Detroit: The City that Never Surrendered. The Conference will bring together more than 250 mayors, investors and trade specialists from around the world to address the challenges and prospects of sustaining growth and development in 21st Century Cities. The Honorable Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of Nigeria, will be the keynote speaker.
“The World Conference of Mayors was created with specific goals of instrumenting exemplary leadership by individuals entrusted with the management of nations’ cities and towns. The primary objective of the World Conference of Mayors is to stimulate positive and constructive relations among mayors internationally,” according to press materials provided for the conference, which was also strongly complimentary toward Mayor Mike Duggan. “The World Conference of Mayors-United Nations of Cities has chosen to team with the Mayor and the City to create exciting opportunities for investments in Detroit by hosting this Landmark Conference in the City.
The World Conference of Mayors was created in April 1984 by Johnny Ford, who at the time was President of the National Conference of Black Mayors, Inc. (NCBM). In 1984, Ford convened mayors from cities around the world to the Annual Meeting of the National Conference of Black Mayors in St. Louis, Missouri. They included mayors from the United States, Asia, the Caribbean Islands and the African continent.The birth of The World Conference of Mayors was launched during that meeting. By consensus, the Missouri conference conferred the founding membership of WCM on the National Conference of Black Mayors in the United States and the Union Des Villes Africains (UVA), the Organization of African Mayors. Both organizations automatically became members of the World Conference of Mayors. From that organizational meeting, Ford was elected Founding President of WCM, along with a Board of Directors.
“There’s a whole world out there, and African Americans have not explored it,” said Holley. “We’ve got to find a way to get businesses in Detroit to do business in Africa. Import, export. We need to do that. …The whole idea is people want to do business with us. We’ve [black Americans] got $1.9 trillion in disposable income. Why wouldn’t they want to do business with us? If we (black people) were a country we’d be the 9th largest country in the world.
“African Americans need to get a little smarter and understand that the world is getting so small. It is so small.”
The following is a list of the countries confirmed to participate in the World Conference of Mayors as of today:
- Ivory Coast
- Saudi Arabia