Key executives of the Detroit-based Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce (MBCC) stood in unity, Monday, June 19, at an outdoor national press conference to announce that the six-year-old state-wide organization has transitioned to become the historic 117-year-old National Business League, Inc. Held at Campus Martius Park in downtown Detroit, the press conference attracted dozens of local black entrepreneurs to hear how this transition will impact their respective businesses.
“This is a momentous occasion,” said Dr. Ken Harris, the new national president and CEO of the National Business League, and former MBCC president and CEO. “The Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce is no more; it has evolved into the National Business League. MBCC will always be remembered in the history books, but we have elevated to a national platform to facilitate and empower black businesses, not just in Detroit and other cities in Michigan, but all over the country.”
Harris announced that NBL, which had been headquartered in Washington, D.C. since 1966, has moved its regional and national office to Detroit. From Detroit, NBL will serve black businesses with regional offices in Atlanta, Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles, all of which encompass more than 365 chapters nationally.
“Detroit is now the center for black business revolution and empowerment on a national scale,” said Harris, who along with Williams Brooks and Charles Beckham, founded MBCC in 2011. “Today begins a journey that reclaims our history. We have embarked on the final frontier, which is the powerful financial and economic empowerment of black people.”
The National Business League began in Boston, Mass. as the National Negro Business League, when Booker T. Washington started the organization in 1900. Five years later, he moved the organization to New York City, where it was reincorporated. In 1966, the National Negro Business League’s name was shortened to National Business League, when it relocated to Washington, D.C. Now, after 51 years in the Nation’s Capital, NBL will now call Detroit its new regional and national home.
Since its inception, the mission of NBL has been to empower black businesses, not only for their own benefits, but for the growth and stability of the nation’s economy. Today, according to data supplied by the Washington, D.C.- based Minority Business Development Agency, there are 2.5 black businesses nationwide, which employ more than a million people, all of which add up to a black purchasing power of $1.2 trillion.
While MBCC has become NBL, Harris said black businesses in Detroit and throughout Michigan will greatly benefit by the historic transition.
“The 47,000 black businesses in Detroit will now get a chance to be part of the 2.5 million black businesses nationwide,” said Harris, who grew MBCC into the nation’s’ largest African American Chamber in the United States with 3,200 members. “For businesses looking to expand, you now have an organization that can help you eliminate those borders, and help you get past limitations and connect you to meaningful opportunities locally and nationally.”
“I’m proud of what Ken Harris has accomplished,” said Charles Beckham, chairman emeritus, MBCC, who will have a key role pushing the revamped agenda of NBL. “The National Business League has been around since the early 1900s. So for it to now be headquartered in Detroit, presents a great opportunity for black businesses in this city to grow. And, there’s no better place that NBL could have moved than to the City of Detroit. We have made history.”
According to Harris, behind the scenes talks to morph MBCC into NBL have been in the makings for two years. When the final decision was made, Harris felt that black businesses in Detroit and around Michigan will greatly be empowered to be leaders of an economic agenda that stands on shoulder of the great Booker T. Washington, and his 117-year-old organization.
Harris thanked the executive team that had been instrumental in driving the NBL agenda before MBCC took over, inclusive of W. Ron Evans, chairman emeritus; Dr. Malcom Beech, president and CEO emeritus; and Thomas Dortch, chairman emeritus. Harris also cited new NBL executive team members to advance the organization’s national agenda, which include Mark Douglass, chairman; Douglass Diggs, chairman elect; and Ivy D. Simmons, vice president.
Harris said he’s extremely confident that black businesses in Detroit, and across the nation, will be greatly empowered through a rebuilt and reenergized National Business League, Inc.
“Black businesses in Detroit and nationally are tremendous success stories,” said Harris. “We are one of the fastest growing segments of entrepreneurship in this country. Together, through the power of the National Business League, we will uplift a nation by providing solutions to black business problems.”
For more information about the National Business League, Inc., which will be headquartered at 1001 Woodward Ave., Suite 910 in downtown Detroit, call 313.818.3017. NBL’s website, according to Harris, will be established soon.