(Photo: Courtest of Renae Sanders)
BET.com recently sat down with Dr. Renae Sanders, chairwoman of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Black Chamber of Commerce (CMBCOC), to get a sense of how the Democratic National Convention will impact Black-owned businesses in Charlotte.
BET.com: What is your role in the CMBCOC and what will be the organization's role be during the DNC?
Dr. Renae Sanders: I lead our board of directors, which encompasses our membership and our committees. My primary function, of course, is to ensure that we are connected with the appropriate folks in the community — whether they’re political or corporate-level folks or even community organizations — to ensure that our members who are business owners have the greatest access to individuals and opportunities so that they can grow their businesses. The role of the chamber [during the DNC] is to ensure that the community and members we serve have educational opportunities, business opportunities and exposure.
What way has Charlotte become a new hub for businesses to grow?
We’ve had additional focus on the energy sector, we have our flourishing sports economy here with NASCAR, the NFL, the [Charlotte] Bobcats, we have a flourishing film industry here. And so I think the market for business owners is very diverse from where we sit, and of course that plays well for African-American businesses that are also growing. There are many more opportunities for us to do business because the economy that Charlotte is developing is much more diverse than it was when it was primarily large corporations and banking.
The DNC put a diversity contracting policy in place to attract more vendors owned by racial minorities. How do you think that benefited Black businesses in Charlotte?
I thought it was great foresight on behalf of the leaders of our city to ensure that they had a spend threshold for minority businesses, because you know the convention can move from city to city and have its own infrastructure in place. And I think particularly coming out of an economic downturn, it was absolutely important for a market that was changing over from primarily a banking and large corporate to becoming more soft or more supportive of small business and entrepreneurs. Black businesses benefit as a result of the city winning that particular opportunity.
What programs has the CMBCOC created to help business owners prepare for economic opportunities presented when a convention as large as the DNC comes to town?
Our chamber continues to host educational opportunities around bidding on large contracts. We’ve put on a program related to that recently. We’ve continued to announce new opportunities for businesses and how to market their businesses with new and exciting ways that they can leverage social media so that they can continue to grow their organizations. We provide educational expertise that helps them grow as well.
There are going to be thousands of visitors in town for the convention. Would you say that Charlotte is ready to handle the crowds?
The city — from a safety standpoint — is ready to handle the crowds and manage through some of the security zones that will be in place for the event. I think the DNC has done a fabulous job communicating with the business community around what to expect and a role that we can play.
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