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Minority chambers begin work on collective economic equity plan

Tuesday, April 19, 2022 by Chad Swiatecki

The four minority chambers of commerce that have for years worked loosely together are moving forward with creating a five-year plan for how to ensure growth in Austin doesn’t bypass minority-owned small businesses.

The Austin LGBT Chamber, Greater Austin Asian Chamber, Greater Austin Black Chamber, and Greater Austin Hispanic Chamber of Commerce – which previously worked together as the Multi-Ethnic Chamber Alliance – have rebranded as the Diversity and Ethnic Chamber Alliance. Jointly, they will produce the first Regional Economic Equity Development (REED) plan as part of a recently adopted adjustment to how much funding the city provides to each group.

The REED plan will address the needs of the various constituencies around issues such as transportation, economic access, child care and other considerations that come into play in talks with major job creators entering the hot Austin market. Another matter of importance is increasing opportunities around procurement and service contracts for small businesses, which can be fulfilled in accordance with companies’ minority- and women-owned business goals.

Tina Cannon, president and CEO of the Austin LGBT Chamber, said the REED plan will be more meaningful in terms of economic impact than the individual contracts and deliverables promised to the city in accordance with its annual funding for each group. The plan is expected to be completed by early 2023.

“The goal is to have the minority chambers work with all of the job creators both public and private over the next year to help us implement those community values, and then help us measure in the aggregate how we are doing,” Cannon said. “Some bare-bones measurements for that would be looking at the number of minority-owned businesses, since that’s a number we can measure based on what’s already been established … these are things around which the community has to come together in order to make sure there’s prosperity out there for everybody.”

Cannon said improving procurement opportunities for minority businesses can lead to fast expansions in hiring and purchases of equipment of capital goods, which creates further economic benefit throughout the Austin area.

That kind of targeted growth is needed, she said, because of the area’s rising cost of living and housing prices that have pushed the median single-family home price past $500,000. “Austin is at a tipping point with regard to our locally owned businesses and similarly we’re at a tipping point with minority owned businesses,” she said. “We can’t wake up 10 years from now and say we should have done more to help our diverse minority businesses sustain.”

Each group will continue to operate as a separate entity while working together and becoming involved earlier on in talks with the Economic Development Department and other city entities around matters of interest to the DECA group.

Fang Fang, president and CEO of the Greater Austin Asian Chamber, said issues such as fragmentation of the area’s fast-growing Asian population will remain prominent while it works with the other DECA chambers on shared concerns (around 20 nationalities fall under the chamber’s purview).

Fang said she wants to make better data available to City Council and other political leaders about the specific dynamics of Asian-owned businesses, and find ways to increase awareness among business owners of the local resources available to them.

“There is currently a severe lack of data to guide those policymakers in doing things that could help our community, so we need to increase awareness and have people see us as not monolithic,” she said. “This is a platform to extend the invitation through our regional partners to reach out to the public and private sector and involve us so we can share ideas and resources to show them how they can be part of this plan.”

Photo made available through a Creative Commons license.

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