Chamber aims to provide development projects in minority communities

By Rebecca Fiedler
Staff Writer

Local businesses have the chance through the Cen-Tex African American Chamber of Commerce to be counseled and network with other businesses.

Located on the sixth floor of the Baylor University Tower on Washington Avenue, the chamber’s headquarters hosts the offices of its leaders, as well as the Center of Business Excellence, which provides multiple resources available to everyone in the community to use.

“The chamber was formed because of the need in the community,” said Laveda Brown, president and CEO of the chamber. “One of the things you’ll notice is that our community is very diverse, and the needs of our community are very diverse. There is no ‘one size fits all’ for economic development, and there are issues that are unique to many minority populations in the community. We are here to address the uniqueness of the community but also to address our specific approach to business and economic development.”

The chamber meets once a month. Every weekday, however, its office provides a free public library of business and finance literature. Here people can also access free office supplies and printing, scanning and Internet services, and a computer lab. A vacant executive office, as well as conference room, are available for anyone to rent.

Local Baylor-supported radio station KWBU, along with many local businesses and large companies such as Coca Cola, is a member of the chamber. KWBU is also a member of the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, Hewitt Chamber of Commerce and the Cen-Tex Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s important to us to be connected with all of these communities through the chambers of commerce,” said Joe Riley, president of KWBU.
Riley said KWBU wants to be part of a healthy business climate in the community, and the Cen-Tex African American Chamber of Commerce helps them do that.

“Being a member means we are supporting the work that the chamber does,” Riley said. “For us it’s an opportunity to meet the business leaders in the area and be in conversation with them. Not to say that we couldn’t be in conversation with businesses without the chamber, but it offers the venue and offers the way of knowing what these needs are and seeing what opportunities out there. We can know who’s doing what in the business community.”

The chamber hosts one of the newest chapters in the nation of SCORE, a nonprofit that assists, educates and counsels small business owners and those wishing to start a business.

“We’re very proud to host that,” Brown said. “We have eight SCORE counselors from all diverse backgrounds; ethnic backgrounds, business backgrounds, etc.”

Brown said chamber membership is not exclusive to African Americans.

“We’re open to the community at large,” Brown said. “We understand that there are issues specific to our minority community, but we also know that there are people who champion our cause, and we do not exclude anyone from our membership. Our membership is very diverse.”

The chamber also puts on a television talk show on a Waco public channel, WCCC. The show is called CommunityWise and is intended to let the community know about resources available to them, Brown said. The chamber has also hosted women’s conferences and celebrations for Juneteenth, a national holiday that celebrates the abolition of slavery.

The chamber is preparing to host a professional development series from the Center of Business Excellence. They will teach people about professional dress, telephone techniques, workforce and business ethics, diversity awareness and how to double productivity, Brown said.
“We want to train individuals to be successful in the workplace, knowing that it benefits the businesses as well,” Brown said.