Money Moves January 18, 2021 at 01:00 pm

How Harrison Blair helped over 300 Black businesses gain access to millions of dollars of funding amid pandemic

Abu Mubarik January 18, 2021 at 01:00 pm

January 18, 2021 at 01:00 pm | Money Moves

Harrison L. BLair is president of the Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce. Photo: Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce

The coronavirus pandemic, besides being a public health threat, has also negatively affected the global economy as it has reduced trade and mobility. At the micro-level, COVID-19 shutdowns have affected small business owners, particularly Black businesses.

According to research by the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a report by the National Bureau of Economic Research, 41 percent of Black-owned businesses have been shuttered by COVID-19, compared to just 17 percent of white-owned businesses.

“Nationally representative data on small businesses indicate that the number of active business owners fell by 22% from February to April 2020—the largest drop on record,” the report said. “Black businesses experienced the most acute decline, with a 41% drop. Latinx business owners fell by 32% and Asian business owners dropped by 26%. In contrast, the number of white business owners fell by 17 percent,” the report said.

The American government implemented a number of initiatives to support struggling businesses such as the Paycheck Protection Program. The federal government signature program for small businesses, however, left a significant gap. Coverage was only 20 percent for communities with a high Black population and less than 20 percent for communities with low population densities. 

“Weaker cash positions, weaker bank relationships, and preexisting funding gaps left Black firms with little cushion entering the crisis: even the healthiest Black firms were financially disadvantaged at the onset of COVID-19,” the report noted.

While many small Black businesses were going through a tumultuous phase, the Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce led by Harrison L. Blair stepped up to address the disparity. Blair was appointed into the position a little over a year ago.

The chamber, which is the oldest in America, has helped advocate for Black-owned businesses in the North Texas area, and Blair knows he had to do more to save more Black businesses from further collapse.

Since the pandemic, Blair and the chamber have assisted over 300 businesses to gain access to over $5 million in funding to help these companies bounce back, according to dmagazine.

He also ensured the implementation of the chamber’s annual programs that honor Black-owned businesses like Quest for Success, a platform designed to promote Black businesses and nonprofits in the North Texas region.

Blair said he is honored to be named one of D CEO’s Dallas 500 2021, especially after only being in this role for a little over a year. “It really is a testament to the support I have received from the community in being able to service this role”, said Blair.

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