When the economy began to shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, black businesses were disproportionately hit hard. Between February and April 2020, they fell by 41%, compared to 17% for white-owned businesses, according to a National Bureau of Economic Research study.
David Dix, CEO of a Harrisburg-based government relations firm called Luminous Strategies, and Marcia Perry Dix, CEO of Harrisburg public relations firm Perry Strategies, decided to create the Pennsylvania Chamber of Black.
The nonprofit, known by its acronym PACBOB, was launched on Monday and is the first statewide organization to lobby on behalf of black businesses.
David Dix explains that the organization’s goals are to connect black entrepreneurs to a larger network of business owners and help them access investment and training.
“This effort is about recognizing first that we are all stronger together, so we are trying to break down silos, break down barriers and create the biggest tent possible for black businesses to be successful,” Dix said.
PACBOB will work with other regional black-owned business chambers, but plans to expand its reach to other locations not covered by regional chambers.
“Places like Erie, which is my hometown, places like Reading, Scranton, are not covered by any of the African American regional chambers, so we intend to be that support system for those areas,” he said. said Ten.
The organization will also partner with the Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce and Industry and other companies that can help provide access to investors.
The Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus joined in supporting PACBOB’s soft launch on Capitol Hill on Monday. Members highlighted the important role black-owned businesses play in communities providing jobs and helping to create a business ecosystem.
“Growing up every day and being able to walk around the corner and see a store owned by someone who looked like me and someone who lived in my community made a difference,” said Rep Jordan. Harris (D-Philadelphia) said at the launch event.
Regilynn Haywood, 27, owns a spa called There she shines in Harrisburg. When COVID-19 hit, she relied on her parents to stay afloat. She had to shut down for eight months. She got a PPP loan and unemployment benefits to help her while her business was shutting down.
Haywood’s parents, Felicia and Reginald “Reggie” Haywood, own Hairliners, a salon in Harrisburg.
“I would not have survived without the legacy my parents had already created in this community because I was no longer able to pay the rent,” said Haywood.
To date, Haywood has been able to recover and even hire two new employees, but she says that for many black business owners who lack generational wealth, that’s not possible.
“In order not to be undervalued and overlooked, we have to have a plan and it has to be conveyed as it is in the white community,” said Haywood. A plan, said Haywood, means access to ownership, to money, and also to the knowledge of running a business.
The PACBOB website will be launched soon.
“We will be working throughout the summer to ensure that all the gaps are filled, that our team and infrastructure reflect the great geographic and gender diversity of this magnificent Commonwealth,” said Dix.
Leaders of other black chambers of commerce have called on the Pennsylvania state government to invest in the black economy. In one editorial published in the Pennsylvania Capital Star, Regina Hairston, CEO of the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware African-American Chamber of Commerce, called on the state legislature to use budget funds to help black businesses recover from pandemic losses.
Pennsylvania has over $ 7 billion in US bailout funding, and currently our Commonwealth is sitting on a $ 3 billion surplus, totaling $ 10 billion in funds that can be used to help communities devastated by this pandemic, ”Hairston wrote. .
Gabriela Martínez is part of the “Report for America” program – a national service effort that places journalists in newsrooms across the country to cover under-covered topics and communities.