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A WGVU initiative in partnership with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation using on-air programs and community events to explore issues of inclusion and equity.

City holds S. Division talks on economic opportunities

Mariano Avila

 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. 

Mariano Avila is WGVU's inclusion reporter. He has made a career of bringing voices from the margins to those who need to hear them. Over the course of his career, Mariano has written for major papers in English and Spanish, published in magazines, worked in broadcast, and produced short films, commercials, and nonprofit campaigns. He also briefly served at a foreign consulate, organized for international human rights efforts and has done considerable work connecting marginalized people to religious, educational, and nonprofit institutions through the power of story.
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