The New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Walk to Washington is a no-go in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the chamber announced Monday morning.
The Walk, which would be in its 84th year in 2021, has occurred through storms, wars, and other far-reaching events, according to Chamber President and CEO Tom Bracken.
“Clearly, in the current environment, it is not a good idea to host a networking event that packs together hundreds of business and government leaders on a charter train and then in a hotel for a dinner,” Bracken said. “Our intent is to resume the Walk to Washington in 2022 – conditions permitting – because it is an important event for New Jersey’s business community.”
Monday’s presser also included the announcement of a partnership between the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce and the African American Chamber of Commerce, as part of an economic inequality initiative set forth by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The partnership will be “a rallying call for diversity and equal opportunity” to address the economic inequality faced by the Black and brown community in the New Jersey business community. The 1.1 million Black New Jerseyans run more than 80,000 businesses, according to previous census data, though AACC President Jon Harmon said upcoming data from the recent census is expected to show more. Nine out of ten of those businesses are sole proprietorships.
The organizations will focus on the areas of education, employment, and entrepreneurship to try to help the Black and brown community increase the number of board seats at big businesses, among other things, Bracken said.
“The numbers are the numbers. If you’ve had zero Blacks on your board, if you’ve never done business with Blacks, we’re going to…keep that confidential, but the goal is to move from zero to one, and one [to more],” Harmon said. “It’s going to take that commitment.”
“Black businesses have the wherewithal to add value to the state economy. There are perceptions that exist in the marketplace that impede frank and honest dialogue…I can tell you that the conversations I have with corporations around the state have been different. They’ve been…more substantive the follow up has been there,” he continued. “The outcomes have been tangible in terms of building a foundation to grow on.”
The organizations will put “a scorecard” behind it, Harmon said. Its structure is yet to be determined.
“When you’re talking to public corporations who are accountable to shareholders and they’re putting their names behind initiatives, someone’s going to call them into account,” Harmon said.
The initiative will include a series of receptions around the state to promote diversity and equal economic opportunity, culminating in a statewide dinner on Sept. 23, 2021.