City holds S. Division talks on economic opportunities

Dec 5, 2017

Jamiel Robinson talks to S. Division neighbors at City event
Credit Mariano Avila / WGVU

 This Tuesday, the topic will be Health and Environment. But, in case you missed it, the one at the Kroc center last Tuesday, November 28 was about economic opportunity. The free dinner was chicken and beef tacos, rice and beans, but the real dish was opportunities and barriers for minority business owners. Here’s Jamiel Robinson from GRAAB who says the main barrier is relational.

“If you look at Steelcase, who’s one of their top suppliers or dealers? It’s Custard! And so that’s two families, so it comes down to relational, in addition to access to capital.”

But Robinson says it goes beyond long-standing family relationships.

“So since we live in a hyper-segregated town, the chances of you knowing one of the bigger businesses or going to school with their kids, or whatever the case, is very slim.  

Robinson says organizations that mesh networks that wouldn’t otherwise know each other can help overcome this barrier.  Another approach is hyper local development boards. Kyama Kitavi, an analyst with the city’s economic development office, says Grand Rapids is already working on an initiative called Corridor Improvement Authority.

“They’re basically local authorities that capture any tax increment from property values that increase over time and keep that money local. And then, I work with the boards to help decide on how they’re going spend that money.”

So, that was the fourth community conversation. Tomorrow, Tuesday night, at 6:00 p.m., at the Kroc Center on S. Division, the city will hold the second to last weekly session. This time the topic will be Health, Environment And Quality of Life. All sessions are free, open to the public, and include dinner.