“We don’t ask you to believe in our ability to change, we ask you to believe in yours.”

Barack Obama

If we continue to glean from the opening lines of a Tale of Two Cities, St. Louis epitomizes its very essence.  It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, Charles Dickens opens as he points to major conflicts that captured hatred vs. oppression; good vs. evil; wisdom vs. indiscretion.  Literary journals go on to state that the tale begins with a vision that human prosperity cannot be matched with human despair.

For years, the fragmentation in our leadership created fertile breeding grounds for continued economic disparities in our city.  We struggle to see all contributors to the economics of St. Louis as equal, necessary, valuable partners. We must consider the Flavored Pickle vendors; the In-home daycare providers; the independently hired home healthcare workers and sole proprietor accounts when we are making decisions of what help needs to look like.  When creating applications to provides funds for assistance we must think about what it will take for these individuals to show themselves worthy of our support.

One could ask how we can find the best of times in a COVID-19 infested world where our lived out experiences are definitely our worse.  The mere irony is our opportunity.  These times are worse than they have ever been, as alarming evidence suggests that Black America is dealing with the brunt of the health and economic crisis sparked by the Coronavirus pandemic. Our reality is that the economic devastation brought on by the pandemic underscores the structural racism and economic injustices that Black business owners have faced for decades.  Our opportunity is to stop using buckets to put out the house fires and bring about substantial solutions of change.

If we can commit to the following, we could make the best of these times we are experiencing today:

  • Committing to Access to Capital
  • Create a MESBIC. A Minority Enterprise Small Business Investment Company that would:
    • Deploy substantially more public-private venture capital to Black and Brown entrepreneurs by funding state and local private investment initiatives.
    • Expand access to low-interest business loans by appropriating state and local funds in Black communities and creating a Black Owned CDFI.
    • Reserve tens of millions in innovation funding to deploy to underserved communities for investments to small businesses.
  • Increased Contracting and Procurement Commitments
    • Create opportunity for government and private entities to work together in solidifying a 25% black spend over the next 20 years for projected contracting and procurement dollars.
  • Prompt Pay Commitments
    • Commit to government and private prompt pay rules and regulations that will ensure that businesses will be fair and timely paid for the work they complete.
  • A Focus on Infrastructure:
    • Our communities of color infrastructure are in need of re-building, we need to focus on three priorities:
      • Communities of color receive needed attention and funding for shovel-ready projects
      • Investments in low-income communities prepare for next generation technologies
      • Black-owned companies have the opportunity to compete and deliver on infrastructure contracts with the necessary banking and finance assistance necessary to compete.
  • Statistical Data Collection
    • As it stands the Black business community in St. Louis is grappling with a large gap in statistical data and we have been comfortable letting majority run organizations speak on behalf of the State of Black St. Louis. The Coronavirus pandemic has underscored the policy challenges that persist when framing the condition of Black businesses without contemporary statistics. This hurdle is preventing the Greater Metropolitan Area from presenting effective legislative solutions and policy intervention tools to meet the needs of our Communities of Color.

The Heartland St. Louis Black Chamber of Commerce in partnership with its National Partner the US Black Chambers Inc. is committed to resolve our data-mining challenges through the collection and presentation of Black business data.

Our offering is as follows:

  • Creating a solution driven survey that will be circulated to all local black business owners.
  • Growing our business directory which speeds up our local ability to disseminate information and assistance to struggling businesses in danger of closing their doors
  • Releasing the State of Black St. Louis Business report in 2021 4th Quarter

In supporting the Black Chamber you support black economics as we look to turn the worst of times into an opportunity to mark intentional, significant change, we can see all boats rising together in the tide for St. Louis.  The Black Community in St. Louis is counting on your ability to change.