Senior Obama administration officials convened at the Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce
second annual Urban Economic Conference

The Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce (MBCC) hosted its second annual Urban Economic Conference and the Inaugural Sankofa Awards Gala in Detroit on Thursday, Nov. 4. Senior Obama administration officials participated in the conference, which hosted more than 700 urban-based businesses.

Building on the MBCC’s Urban Economic Agenda, the conference connected the president’s economic vision and agenda, as well as regional and state resources, to the needs of urban entrepreneurs. In doing so, the conference demonstrated the MBCC’s ongoing commitment to supporting the success of urban-owned businesses and connecting area urban entrepreneurs to resources and networks that can help them grow and find employment.

The agenda included several important and thought-provoking sessions focused on Michigan’s underserved economy, diversity and inclusion in the urban marketplace. The purpose of these forums were to:

Connect urban entrepreneurs and business owners to the local, state, and national resources and networks they need to grow and develop strong hiring practices,

Shine a spotlight on the urban economic success stories and positive economic momentum in urban centers across the state of Michigan, and

Use these conventions as a way to encourage the commitment of more resources and attention to local urban entrepreneurs. 
To conclude the conference, the MBCC hosted the Inaugural Sankofa Awards Gala at the Detroit Marriott Renaissance Center. Over 700 Black businesses and supporters participated in one of the largest African-American sit-down business dinners in the country. Walter Douglas, chairman of Avis Ford, delivered the keynote address, and Dr. William F. Pickard, PhD, president/CEO of the Global Automotive Alliance, was honored during the evening with the Inaugural MBCC Lifetime Achievement Award. 
Presenting sponsors for this event included Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, Google, GM, HAP, Microsoft and ChemicoMays. The MBCC partnered with Washington, D.C.-based Business Forward to develop the agenda. Business Forward is a four-year-old trade association supported by 50 of the country’s most respected companies and its mission is to help business leaders advise policymakers on how to create jobs and accelerate our economic recovery.

“The ability to focus resources towards Michigan’s underserved urban economy is crucial. Helping entrepreneurs to harness these resources effectively could result in significant job growth and capacity building for small businesses. The success of this year’s conference will be measured by the MBCC’s ability to implement a progressive urban economic agenda that helps entrepreneurs get from A to Z with the least amount of grey hair and stress,” said Ken Harris, president/CEO ,Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce, Inc.

White House participants included Don Graves, deputy assistant Secretary of the Treasury and executive director, President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness and the administration’s point person on Detroit’s recovery; Sol Ross, director of Business Outreach, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Michael Block, senior advisor, U.S. Small Business Administration, Office of Capital Access; Heather Foster, White House Office of Public Engagement; Michael Masserman, executive director, Export Policy, Promotion and Strategy International Trade Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce; Joann Hill, chief for the Office of Business Development, Minority Business Development Agency, and Jim Doyle, Business Forward president/CEO and founder.

The Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce (MBCC) is Michigan’s first statewide Black chamber of commerce. With access to more than 79,000 Black-owned businesses in Michigan, the MBCC has become one of the largest and most influential chambers of commerce in the country, with chapters in Grand Rapids, Lansing, Detroit, Pontiac, Southfield, Flint, Ann Arbor, and Ypsilanti. For more information, visit

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