The region’s oldest, largest and most established black-owned businesses and business associations have announced a new effort to level the playing field for minority-owned companies in Detroit. The Detroit Coalition for Economic Inclusion (DCEI), was formed under the banner of the National Business League (NBL) as part of its national initiative to champion economic inclusion and equity on development projects. Based in Washington, D.C., the NBL, founded in 1900, is the nation’s oldest and largest trade association for black-owned businesses.
The coalition will work to push for changes in order to give black-owned businesses a fair opportunity to participate in the development and building of new commercial projects. The coalition is currently conducting The Economic Inclusion and Equity Confidence Surveyasking black business owners their feelings on a variety of issues ranging from contracting opportunities and practices to political leadership.
“This is the first time anyone has ever asked black-owned business owners how they feel about opportunities in Detroit,” says Darwyn Parks, executive director of the coalition. “We expect the answers to be enlightening.”
The National Business League agrees. “Our early survey data suggests there is a tremendous gap with black-owned businesses participating in Detroit’s development renaissance,” says Ken L. Harris, Ph.D., national president/CEO of the NBL. “Few black business owners surveyed feel as if the local economy is inclusive and equitable. A lack of economic inclusion and equity causes neighborhoods to suffer. In a city where more than 49,000 black-owned businesses and entrepreneurs operate, this shouldn’t be happening. We will get to the root of this problem, find equitable solutions and ensure that black-owned businesses are at the table and not on the menu.”
Business leaders say many public-private developments in the city, supported with tax abatements and subsidies, have largely failed to include the broad range of black-owned businesses. From design to demolition and finance to fencing, black-owned companies seems to be largely absent from doing significant work on major development projects such as the new Little Caesar’s Hockey Arena, the ongoing demolition of Joe Louis Arena and the proposed development of the Hudson’s site.
“Black-owned companies have been around a long time,” says Tarolyn Buckles, president of the National Association of Minority Consulting Engineers. “We have businesses in the legal, real estate, security, finance, hauling, construction, engineering and design industries – all things needed for development – and yet, we seem to be locked out of the biggest building boom in recent memory.”
Jason Cole, chair of the Michigan Minority Contractors Association agrees. “Detroit is still 82 percent black and yet our businesses don’t get a fair opportunity to compete and win private sector development projects.”
Coalition members include: the National Association of Minority Consulting Engineers, Tarolyn Buckles, president; the National Association of Black Women in Construction, Tylene Henry, Detroit president; the National Business League, Dr. Ken L. Harris, president/CEO; the Real Estate Association of Developers, Alisha M. Moss, founding member; and the Michigan Minority Contractors Association, Jason Cole, chair and Darwyn Parks, president and coalition executive director.