Chambers of commerce unite

Photo by Daniel Heraty

Errol Service, chairman of the African Caribbean Chamber of Commerce, signs a memorandum of understanding which made official the formation of the Council of the Ethnic Chambers of Commerce.

Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN – Local minority-focused chambers of commerce met Oct. 11 to announce a new joint venture focused on business growth in southeastern Michigan.

During a press conference held at the Dearborn Hyatt Regency, the leaders of area chambers signed an agreement announcing they will work together as the Council of Ethnic Chambers of Commerce, the first of its kind in the nation.

Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Ken Harris said the main goal of the council is to help minority-owned businesses in Southeast Michigan who have little or no access to money or advocacy. He said Michigan is fertile ground for “economic gardening,” a term used to describe regions where business growth is seen as promising.

“What this council allows us to do is to collaboratively unify our efforts to provide resources … to those communities who are on their own,” he said. “This is an opportunity for us to really intrinsically build intimate relationships with entrepreneurship.”

In addition to Harris, those in attendance to sign the agreement were Lee Green, senior executive director of the African Business Chamber of Commerce U.S.A.; Ahmad Chebbani, American Arab Chamber of Commerce Board chairman; Indo-American Chamber of Commerce spokesman Milan Gandhi; Taiwanese Chamber of Commerce Vice President Yao Huo; African Caribbean Chamber of Commerce Chairman Errol Service; Detroit Chinese Business Association President Joe Miao and Philippine Chamber of Commerce President Ryan Rosario.

Armando Ojeda, executive director of the Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, was absent.

In a press release, Michael Finney, president and CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, offered his congratulations on the formation of the council.

“Your alliance will help us rev up our small business engine and through economic gardening, spread prosperity across Michigan,” he said in the statement. “I commend you on this great step forward.”

Arab American Chamber of Commerce spokesman Khalil Hachem said the idea for the council began in late 2010 when the AACC started reaching out to other chambers. He said meetings were held in order to get an idea of how the council would be shaped.

Chebbani, who is also the council’s founder, said it would not overrule the chambers.

“All chambers retain their separate identities,” he said. “But (will) work together through the council to promote each other, cooperate on various activities and provide better services and more effective use of immediate resources.”

He said that future growth of the council will happen, possibly as soon as November.

Vice President of Strategic Partnerships for MEDC Douglas Smith said that the diversity of the group should be a uniting factor. He added he was pleased to see such diversity among the members of the council, and to see them working together.

“We need to be collaborative when we have the kind of environment that is so rich with diversity,” he said. “That diversity should always be a strength that we have.”

Smith said the council allows the MEDC to better work with area businesses.

“This just gives us yet another local group — and a fairly large one – that represents a broad spectrum of business that we can work with,” he said. “It just makes it … easier to work together.”

(Daniel Heraty can be reached at