City to host Q&A session to discuss initiative to increase Black-owned businesses
By Natalie Anderson
SALISBURY — Mayor Karen Alexander and local business leaders will host a virtual Q&A session today to discuss a commitment with national nonprofit Operation HOPE to support and grow the number of Black-owned businesses.
Alexander told council members Tuesday she has spent the last six months working with Operation HOPE CEO and founder John Hope Bryant and First Horizons National Corporation President and CEO Brian Jordan — a Salisbury native — to opt into the “1MBB” initiative, or “1 Million Black Business and Entrepreneur” initiative. Operation HOPE is a nonprofit founded in 1992 to support financial literacy and economic education to low- and moderate-income adults and youth.
Operation HOPE opened at the First Horizon Bank in Salisbury in 2009. The 1MBB program was founded by Bryant in 2018.
The goal for the 1MBB initiative is to impact 1 million Black-owned businesses by 2030 by strengthening those that currently exist, providing financial coaching and resources for successful business models and working toward equitable investments for business start-ups. Impacts also include building the community coalition and creating a dynamic and supportive atmosphere for Black entrepreneurs.
“(Bryant) came up with the idea that it would really take nothing away from any of the other businesses across the country if we could as communities across the nation help, over a decade, create 1 million new Black-owned businesses,” Alexander said.
Council members Tuesday formally authorized the mayor to sign on the council’s behalf signaling support to move forward with the program. The city’s role is the commitment to review its own procurement processes and support the work from the community coalition. Additionally, the city has a goal of implementing 100 businesses per year over the decade.
Alexander said First Horizons National Bank shared with her that more than 2,500 locals have gone through the Operation HOPE financial literacy program in Salisbury. As a result, she said, 100 businesses per year is doable.
Operation HOPE is working with Shopify for the 1MBB initiative. Shopify helps small businesses transition to online retail and e-commerce platforms. Other national members include First Horizon National Corporation, iHeart Radio, the city of Memphis and 100 Black Men of America, Inc.
City Manager Lane Bailey said there is no cost to the city for the program.
“It’s just another tool in the toolbox to help part of our community,” he added. “It will, in turn, help all the community.”
Additionally, Operation HOPE and Shopify are providing each 1MBB client with a $25,000 package to provide for Black entrepreneurs business resources and support, coaching and mentoring opportunities, educational support and a 120-day free trial for Shopify services.
In addition to the mayor, city council, Bryant and Jordan, other local partners at this time include Livingstone College President Dr. Jimmy Jenkins, Salisbury-Rowan NAACP President Gemale Black, Rowan County Economic Development Commission President Rod Crider and John Everett of Hood Theological Seminary.
“(Council) has made a commitment to create an equitable city for all of our citizens,” Alexander said, citing one of the council’s overarching goals set for 2021 earlier this year. “And this is just one more step that will get us closer to that.”
Those interested in the Q&A session can tune in to the noon session via Zoom at https://bit.ly/31OEYuL.
Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.