At 10 a.m. Saturday morning, the Big Bend Minority Chamber of Commerce and Capital City Chamber of Commerce hosted a town hall meeting titled “Moving Us Forward 2.” The event was designed to have an open conversation regarding economic inclusion in Leon County with community leaders and local business owners.
Some of the attendees and speakers included Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey, County Commissioner Nick Maddox, City Commissioners Jeremy Matlow and Dianne Williams-Cox and the presidents of FAMU, FSU and TCC.
Antonio Jefferson, president of BBMCC, says Black businesses around the nation are struggling and estimates that 41% percent of businesses during the pandemic are expected to go out of business forever.
“During this meeting, be encouraged to ask questions,” Jefferson said. “This is our time as a community to stand up, be seen and be heard.”
This four-hour event was filled with numerous workshops that consisted of the presidents’ round table talk speaking on contracting with minority-owned businesses, a presentation on equipping and empowering Black, minority and women owned businesses through purposeful economic inclusion and dealing with the mental health challenges of an entrepreneur in 2021.
President Larry Robinson of Florida A&M University said that in 2017, the university established a diversion and inclusion council so that FAMU is not only holding others accountable for equity and inclusivity but also itself.
“I’m really impressed at the role that our staff is playing to ensure that minority and local owned businesses are involved in our projects,” Robinson said. “We can’t expect others to do what we don’t do ourselves.”
Robinson strongly encourages local business owners to come to “Industry Day” on May 10 to learn more about the process of how to do business with FAMU.
President John Thrasher of Florida State University said that FSU has started a significant equity and inclusion process.
“Talking about inclusion, racism and equity is one thing, but understanding is another,” Thrasher said. “We’re not perfect but we are doing a better job at understanding.”
President Jim Murdaugh of TCC said all colleges and universities in Tallahassee need to put together an inventory of local businesses they can chose from to do future projects with, when needed.
“Seventy-seven percent of projects that TCC has completed have been by minority or women-owned businesses,” Murdaugh said.
During the meeting, the first 25 attendees received gift cards and one business, Run and Buzz Bartending Services, was rewarded a micro-grant of $500 from Florida Blue. A special new business award recognition was also presented to Gilliam Sisters Soul Food restaurant, which opened earlier this year on West Tharpe Street in the former Wells Brothers eatery.