Two of the state’s largest chambers of commerce want to explore how to close the racial divide that keeps African American professionals out of business opportunities across the state.
An agreement announced Monday between the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce and the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey means the two will gauge just how they can even the playing field for Black-owned businesses.
“Now is the time to use that reach to bring together the hundreds of our member companies, the Murphy administration, state legislative leaders and community leaders into a partnership that will break open the doors of economic opportunity to those to whom these doors have been closed for too long,” AACCNJ President and founder John Harmon said Monday in a statement.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been particularly devastating for Black-owned businesses. Forty-one percent of Black small businesses closed between February and April, dropping by 440,000 businesses from 1.1 million in February to 640,000 in April, according to a June report from Cambridge-based nonprofit think tank the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Meanwhile, 17 percent of the 1.8 million white-owned small businesses shuttered during that same timeframe because of the pandemic, according to the report.
“For New Jersey to completely achieve its economic potential, we must leverage the many assets offered by Black-owned businesses and cultivate the talents of those in the black community,” New Jersey Chamber of Commerce President and Chief Executive Officer Tom Bracken said in a Monday statement. “This initiative is long overdue.”
One milestone is to increase the number of Black executives serving on the boards of directors for the chambers’ member companies, as well as the state chamber’s own board of directors.
Three of the New Jersey Chamber’s 84 members – Harmon, New Jersey Society of CPA’s CEO and Executive Director Ralph Albert Thomas; and MZM Construction President and CEO Majorie Perry – are African American.
Another milestone is to secure commitment from state businesses to work more with Black-owned businesses and Black residents.
Meanwhile, the two chambers said they’ll “identify contract, investment, mentoring, employment and recruitment opportunities for Black-owned businesses.”
And, they’ll create “good corporate citizenship programs” that will aid the state’s black residents’ “social and economic standing.”