HuffPost, High Ground News & MLK50 to discuss economic inequality in Memphis

Why is it so hard for black and brown businesses to get their share of the green? Join the discussion here. 

Four local experts will examine how entrepreneurship can strengthen Memphis’ middle class and the economic barriers to building wealth for businesses of color and women-owned companies during a panel discussion Monday.

The “Show MEM the Money” panel will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. Monday, September 18, at Clayborn Temple.

The event is part of HuffPost’s Listen to America engagement, a 25-city bus tour dedicated to listening to concerns from people across the country.

The panel is a collaboration between HuffPost and High Ground News. Wendi C. Thomas, editor of the MLK50: Justice Through Journalism project, will moderate.

The panelists are Jozelle Booker, president of the Mid-South Minority Business Council Continuum; Carolyn Hardy, chair of the Greater Memphis Chamber and CEO of Henderson Transloading Services; Alex Matlock, CEO of Contigo Creative and president of the Mid-South Latino Chamber of Commerce; and Floyd Tyler, founder and president of PreserverPartners.

Panelists will look at how well minority and woman-owned businesses in Memphis are supported by the city and the Chamber of Commerce.

According to a U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 report, African American-owned businesses earned less than 1 percent of all revenue flowing through Memphis in 2012. Of all the revenue coming into Memphis, black-owned firms only earned 0.83 percent of those receipts, while female-owned businesses earned 2.73 percent of all revenue.

The trend has been going down. The US Census Bureau’s 2007 data, released in 2012, showed the number of black-owned businesses increased 100.4 percent yet, even as the minority-owned businesses grew, they only took in 1.08 percent of the city’s revenue 10 years ago.

In June, the city of Memphis was accepted into the City Accelerator cohort, which also includes Charlotte, Chicago, Milwaukee and Los Angeles. The program, supported by The Citi Foundation and Living Cities, brings the cities together to refine their procurement spending strategies and encourage more spending with minority-owned businesses. The cohort follows the city’s steps in 2016 when it launched new programs, began stricter diversity participation standards for companies and attempted to bring the public and private sector together with broader partnerships.

Speakers at the “Show MEM the Money” will look at how successful or unsuccessful those efforts have been, and whether they can help improve the downward trends local minority-owned businesses experienced in past years.

The event is the second such panel sponsored by High Ground News. In March, the media outlet partnered with EPIcenter Memphis to hold “Economic Justice in the City,” also moderated by Thomas.

Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. and the event is free, although attendees are asked to register online. Clayborn Temple is at 280 Hernando Street in Memphis.

HuffPost journalists will also be present at Crosstown Concourse the afternoon of September 18 to interview Memphis residents. Further details can be found here.