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National Bankers Association hosts 89th Annual Convention in the city

dgw_9763Diversity in business was the main topic of the National Bankers Association’s 89th annual convention held on Oct. 4 in Detroit at the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel.

The convention hosted financial professionals from all over the country. Workshops and forums were held to address issues such as women-owned businesses and bridging the gap between financial institutions and businesses owned by people of color.

As Detroit continues to make its comeback, which is still in a relatively fragile state and while being watched closely around the world, the issue of strengthening and investing in black businesses has become a major area of concern. Although there are more than 40,000 black-owned businesses in the city, most complain about an inability to be approved for loans from banks or to attract any significant investment that could trigger expansion or simply much needed upgrades and improvements. The noise of complaint surrounding this issue has become louder recently as the rest of Detroit surrounding downtown and Midtown has watched that area’s expansion. Although there are certainly local programs designed to assist small businesses and businesses owned by people of color, such as Motor City Match, there remains a lingering perception that African Americans still aren’t being given the same attention and opportunities that other, larger white-owned businesses are able to attract.

The NBA, founded in 1927, was created “to enter into the new millennium as a vital trade organization for minority and women-owned financial institutions and has profited by collaboration on various mutually beneficial business ventures,” said the NBA. “Since the days of its inception, the NBA has worked tirelessly to be a voice for minority bankers trying to be heard in the halls of Congress, within the regulatory bodies and the other agencies of government, including the White House.”

National Bankers Association President Michael Grant said Detroit was chosen because of the significant economic growth the city has experienced in the last five years. “The city is a sort of modern renaissance in this country, making the city the best place to hold this year’s convention,” said Grant. “We can look to Detroit to see what will happen for the rest of the country.” Similarly, Melvin Hollowell, Detroit’s corporation counsel, spoke on behalf of Mayor Duggan about the city’s growth and improvement. Hollowell said rent prices in Detroit have increased by 30 percent just in the last year. He added that the city has also experienced population growth, something, he said many have denied. Hollowell continued, “We have data that even the U.S. Census Bureau doesn’t have. We have statistics from DTE showing a significant increase in energy hookups.

Millennials are the main source of this growth.” The U.S. Census Bureau said Millennials are the most educated demographic in the U.S. with over 22 percent having college degrees. Statistics like these, Hollowell said, have inspired Detroit and other cities to focus on developments to attract Millennials.

Projects like the QLINE and the Little Caesars Arena in the new District Detroit, Hollowell said, are examples of developments that will move the city forward and increase population. The American Institute for Economic Research (AIER), an organization that studies economic trends in the U.S., has identified some of the key factors that attract Millennials to a city. “Our ranking of employment destinations is based on quality of life, work opportunities, and the presence of other young people,” AIER said. Racial diversity, AIER said, is another important factor for Millennials. “Since the younger generation is far more racially and ethnically varied than the older generation, we may simply be observing that metropolitan areas with diverse racial and ethnic sub-populations continue to attract more members of diverse racial and ethnic groups. This phenomenon is referred to as like-to-like migration,” AIER said. Detroit’s diversity, Hollowell said, contributes to the resiliency of the city that led to its growth. “Soon, everyone else will have to catch up,” he said.

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