Could the National Business League (NBL) be leading a revolution in economic empowerment? With their latest announcement, they may have just further solidified the movement and reached a milestone in the process. The NBL has spearheaded initiatives resulting in Black suppliers gaining over $100 million in contracts and procurement opportunities. This milestone underscores the vital role of organizations like the NBL in fostering economic equity and advancement within marginalized communities.
The NBL, renowned as the nation’s oldest trade association for Black businesses, launched its National Black Supplier Development Program in 2021 with a mission to forge impactful partnerships. Kenneth Harris, president and CEO of NBL, highlights the program’s unprecedented success, stating, “In three years, Black suppliers have gained over $100 million in new contracts and procurement opportunities (with participating firms), which is unprecedented.”
The roots of the National Business League’s commitment to economic empowerment run deep, tracing back to the establishment of its predecessor, the National Negro Business League (NNBL), in 1900. Founded in Boston, Massachusetts, by the visionary Booker T. Washington, and with the support of industrialist Andrew Carnegie, the NNBL embarked on a mission to uplift African American entrepreneurs across the United States. By 1901, the organization was formally incorporated in New York and swiftly expanded, establishing 320 chapters nationwide.
The recent gathering in Detroit, presented by Stellantis and orchestrated by the NBL, marked the 37th Annual National Black Supplier Conference. The event, held at the esteemed Detroit Athletic Club, witnessed overwhelming support, selling out within hours of its announcement. Key figures like Joseph Anderson, president of Tag Holdings, shared insights, while informational panels provided invaluable guidance.
The NBL’s collaborative efforts extend to 125 Fortune 500 companies and various public and private sector organizations. Forrest Carter, director of the National Black Supplier Development Program, emphasizes the program’s broader significance, stating, “The goal of the NBL supplier program is to address the ongoing economic disparity, even seven decades after the enactment of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.”
This initiative gained momentum amid increasing calls for racial equity following pivotal events like the COVID-19 pandemic and the tragic murder of George Floyd. Harris affirms a shift towards tangible results, stating, “We have progressed beyond the days of business card exchanges… and are now fostering commerce-driven initiatives and measurable opportunities that produce receipts.”
Corporate partners like Stellantis and GM underscore their commitment to diversity and inclusion through supplier diversity programs. Bruno Olvera of Stellantis emphasizes the importance of diversifying the supply chain, particularly during challenging times like the pandemic. Tamara Hicks of GM echoes this sentiment, highlighting the longstanding support provided to Black suppliers.
The NBL’s supplier program addresses key challenges faced by Black-owned businesses, including understanding the requirements of becoming a supplier to large corporations. Travis Spencer of Ford emphasizes the personal significance of this work, recognizing economic empowerment as a driving force for societal progress.
Moreover, the National Black Supplier Development Program plays a pivotal role in facilitating connections between Black-owned businesses and corporations nationwide, fostering greater inclusivity and opportunity.
As we celebrate this remarkable milestone, it serves as a testament to the power of collaboration, advocacy, and economic empowerment. The NBL’s achievements underscore the transformative potential of dedicated efforts towards fostering equity and opportunity for all. Through continued commitment and collaboration, we can forge a future where economic prosperity knows no bounds.