It appears that Spring is trying to make its way into New Jersey. Fortunately, we have been hard at work through the first quarter of 2011 notwithstanding the economic conditions or inclement weather.

Accordingly, on behalf of the Board of Directors and members of the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey, Inc., we would like to thank you for your continued support.

Coming into 2011, we have been focused on three areas: Awareness, Relevance and Value Proposition as it relates to the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey. AACCNJ serves as representative of the 60,000 African American businesses in New Jersey on issues of business, education, and advocacy. Unfortunately, many of these businesses and communities where they are located have not kept pace with the mainstream. Therefore, AACCNJ is committed to working on behalf of its constituency to identify the challenges and bring forth solutions.

For example:

The educational and economic disparities continue to persist, despite the fact that African Americans make up the majority population and political representation in New Jersey’s most prominent cities. Clearly, a very frustrating dilemma for many, and a mind-boggling challenge. It would appear that based on this situation, contract participation for African Americans would be significantly evident and the community would rally together to ensure that their children receive a quality education. On the contrary, I would be hard pressed to find any urban city in New Jersey where African American participation in contract opportunities is greater than 20%, and high school graduation rates above 75%, with a commensurate level of college enrollment.
A recent census report stated that African American business growth is up 66% since the last time this information was reported. This data reflects a significant opportunity for AACCNJ to coalesce a strategic partnership with government, corporations and communities throughout New Jersey. This partnership would implement initiatives that will improve educational outcomes for children and produce employment and contract opportunities for those who continue to have difficulty securing them.
Moreover, for those groups that have been successful in these areas, AACCNJ would like to partner with you as well. Why? It’s because we are all members of this great state and its’ in our collective interest to see improvement in the areas of education, employment and economic opportunity.

Awareness

At our Circle of Achievement Awards Gala that was held on February 19, 2011 at the Hyatt Regency in New Brunswick, we showcased a number of African American professionals, who in many ways represented the Best In Class: Michael Roberts, Chairman and CEO of The Roberts Companies, Roger Ferguson, President and CEO of TIAA-CREF, David Dinkins, former Mayor of New York City, Jeannine LaRue, Former Vice President of Public Affairs, Rutgers University, and Bishop David Evans of Bethany Baptist Church.

This event was representative of the African American talent that exists and is available as a resource to strengthen New Jersey’s economy through job creation and economic growth strategies. Additionally, monthly we have hosted activities across New Jersey to provide businesses with information, resources and opportunities that would contribute to their success. Our networking mixers have been standing room only events and a valuable resource for those seeking to establish beneficial relationships.

Lastly, we recently entered a partnership with the AKA Sorority, Inc. Epsilon Upsilon Omega Chapter to co-sponsor educational and entrepreneurial programs. We plan to pursue similar relationships in the future with other groups.

Relevance

The State of Black New Jersey held March 12, 2011 at Rutgers University, provided a forum on topics of Education Reform, Politics and Business. Panelist included Public Service Electric & Gas, Department of Labor, representation from the Republican and Democratic parties Assemblyman Alex DeCroce, Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini and Senator Ronald Rice, Carlos Perez, of New Jersey Charter Schools, Rutgers University Economist William Rodgers, and the Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno, gave the Keynote address.

This was a great opportunity to have leaders from various sectors come together to discuss solutions to many of the systemic challenges that African Americans deal with in New Jersey. The most significant take-away from this forum was the bipartisan participation from our legislators. We left very optimistic about our future potential, if we can keep our legislators engaged in meaningful discussions on African American issues.

Value Proposition

We will continue to engage business, government, and the community around strategies that will lead to more employment and contract opportunities for African Americans. There are a number of organizations that have recently joined AACCNJ based on their commitment to economic diversity and a willingness to pursue objectives that will be of mutual benefit.

Additionally, we are in negotiations with a number of corporations on ways in which AACCNJ can assist with Supply Chain and Employment Diversification. All of which is in the best interest of New Jersey’s economy.

Please visit the “Members Area” of our website and read directly from our members regarding their relationship with AACCNJ. We are committed to delivering results for those who make the investment in our organization. We are the only chamber in New Jersey that guarantees it will contribute to the success of its members.

What’s Ahead

Soon we will launch the AACCNJ Job Portal, where employers may post career opportunities. Additionally, AACCNJ will be offering resume preparation services for those job seekers interested in placing their resume in our system. There will be a charge for access to some of the services offered by AACCNJ.

In the month of June we will host a Town Hall meeting in the City of Camden, an interactive session with panelist representing business, education, and politics.

Governor Christie recently approved $540 million to fuind school construction projects in the following cities: Elizabeth, Trenton, New Brunswick, Asbury Park, Irvington, East Orange, Bridgeton, Burlington City, Camden, Jersey City, and Garfield to name a few . We strongly encourage our members to position themselves for these opportunities by pre-qualifying through the School Development Authority. AACCNJ will be aggressively advocating to raise the level of participation of minority and women owned firms to reflect substantial improvement. Clearly, the number of contracts extended to minority and women owned firms during the previous round of funding was embarassing and will not be tolerated this time.

However, again, interested firms must make themselves available to do business and let their voices be heard when they encounter barriers. The current economic environment notwithstanding, when there are public dollars being spent, it’s only right that the playing field be level and accessible.

In closing, there are a number of underutilized resources that more businesses must take advantage of as a means of sustaining growth.

For example:

Recently, the Obama Administration authorized the expansion of loans and guarantee limits as a means to making capital more accessible for small businesses.

Locally, the Christie Administration has deplored the Economic Development Authority (EDA) Business Action Center (BAC) and Choose New Jersey, as resources to assist New Jersey businesses in their expansion plans, job retention and innovation. The aforementioned resources are too significant for business not to take advantage of when striving to grow your business.

The above resources provide business owners with another level of support in these tough economic times, however, if businesses don’t take advantage and apply, it all means nothing.

Until next time, I strongly encourage you to contact the chamber and let’s explore how we can assist you in growing your business.

Thank you,

John E. Harmon, Sr.