Grand Rapids Chamber launches minority business councils
The Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce has launched three minority business councils in an attempt to further its diversity, equity, inclusion and access goals for the city.
The councils include representation of Asian American, Black, and Latinx businesses. Dante Villarreal, Vice President of Business and Talent Development at the chamber, said the idea came after seeing how disproportionately business owners of color were affected during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
""We had a peak behind the scenes of a lot of minority business where more support was needed," he explained, "...Our minority businesses were not accessing the resources that are available to all businesses, but because sometimes there’s a language or cultural or socioeconomic barrier,” he said.
At the time, Villarreal was working to distribute grant money during the small business recovery program, which allocated funds to business owners via the CARES Act.
The new councils will help guide the work of the chamber and help connect, empower and "activate" minority business owners in areas like economic development, advocacy and leadership. Villarreal said this isn't a one-time move for the chamber, but rather an all-encompassing shift to how the group does business.