Black business leaders want "a seat at the table" in Detroit re-development

Sep 18, 2013

The Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce says minority-owned businesses are "locked out" of Detroit development deals.
The Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce says minority-owned businesses are "locked out" of Detroit development deals.
Credit Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

 There are a number of multi-million dollar development projects happening in and around downtown Detroit these days.

But according to the Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce, black-owned businesses feel left out of the boom.

Black and other minority-owned businesses have effectively been locked out of the process of re-developing Detroit, says Chamber CEO Ken Harris.

Harris points out that many of the mega-developments in and around downtown Detroit—such as a new hockey arena for the Detroit Red Wings--have received taxpayer support.

But Harris says most Detroit taxpayers aren’t seeing a return on that money. And he says more locally-based and black-owned businesses—some 32,000, in the Chamber’s estimate--deserve a piece of those public-private partnerships.

“When you see this opportunity for us to participate, when we’ve handed you the check…we want our economic equality and we want to help rebuild Detroit together,” says Harris.

Some black business leaders say minority businesses just want a “seat at the table,” but “the powers that be” haven’t invited diverse groups to participate.

They also warned of a growing rift between Detroit’s resurgent core and its struggling neighborhoods—saying long-time residents and taxpayers should reap the benefits of any re-development.

Harris says the Chamber will address this and other issues facing minority entrepreneurs at its second annual Urban Economic Forum in November. It will also release an economic blueprint and “fairness doctrine” for future development there.