Thanks to the vision and leadership of former Ohio Senator, Ray Miller, the Columbus African American Chamber of Commerce is off to a great start. In his new role as President and Founder he recognized “there were other ethnic-focused Chambers in Central Ohio for Hispanics and Asian-Americans, but not for the African American community, and I wanted to help change that.”
Ray has been involved in politics since he was 16 years old, so “serving the community” has been an important part of his life for many years. In 1980 he wrote the description for his position with the Columbus Chamber of Commerce as VP of Community Development. He talked about starting a Columbus African American Chamber of Commerce for many years, but one day he just decided to finally get it done and make it happen.
His vision was to make the board positions the most sought after positions in the city of Columbus. Ideally, he would like to have a 19-member board, and they are just over half way there with 11 serving members today. These include: Lonnie Miles with Miles McClellan, Dan Moncrief with McDaniel’s Construction, Dr. Gina Love-Walker, Senator Charleta Tavares, Orvell Johns, and Carter Womack with Who’s Who Publishing Company.
The Chamber’s kick-off event was held on November 15, 2012 with Maggie Anderson, author of “Our Black Year” giving the keynote address. Response has been overwhelming and people are joining the Chamber and they haven’t even finished their marketing material!
Helping Member Businesses Succeed
They plan on having a Franchising Forum to help provide their members with answers to what it takes financially to run their business and be successful. In addition, they want to start offering a Marketing Forum to assist with the promotion and business development efforts of members. Ray also envisions Technical and Networking Forums down the road as well, to further assist members with information they need to be successful and meet other Chamber members. To help with outreach and promotion each issue of the Columbus African American Journal will have four pages dedicated to the Columbus African American Chamber of Commerce highlighting Chamber members, spotlighting their events and marketing their business.
One of the biggest challenges over the past few years is that African American businesses have a harder time finding out about projects in the private sector. With the help of the Chamber, they will now be able to ask for help with this. Ray says, “I want to help put members in front of the right folks that can help their business succeed. If there are tax changes, regulatory issues or new minimum wage laws, the Chamber will help make it easier for members to find out sooner and help them to adhere to the changes.”
Partnerships are very important to the Chamber, and these partnerships will be used to help member businesses when they are first starting up, as well as dealing with the ongoing challenges of running a business. The Chamber currently helps with legal advice, accounting, business development and public policy, and financial advice based on the relationships they currently have with local area experts. Legal advice is available through John Waddy, accounting services through Jesse Hemphill of Hemphill & Associates, business development and public policy through Ray and Ed Hogan and they look forward to leveraging their relationship with Heartland Bank for access to personal and business banking advice, as well as guidance on other financial services that are relevant to today’s business owner.
When asked about the future of the Chamber, Ray says, “The goals for the Chamber are: development of a board to work on strategic community issues, to increase the number of new members and to help businesses with their operational and technical needs.” Ray’s son is a graphic artist and is working on a membership package, which will include a rewards club where members can get discounts from other members of the Chamber.
Eventually, Ray would like to take the local chapters of the African American Chamber of Commerce in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Toledo, Dayton, Mansfield and now Columbus and combine them into an Ohio African American Chamber of Commerce. This would further help to pool Chamber resources from the various communities around the state for the betterment of the African American business community.
In addition to his role as President and Founder of the Columbus African American Chamber of Commerce, Ray is also the Publisher of the Columbus African American News Journal and the President of the Center for Urban Progress.
For more information please contact:
Columbus African American Chamber of Commerce
Ray Miller, President
750 East Long Street, Suite 3000
Columbus, Ohio 43203