Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce Acquires National Business League

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Black business leaders gathered in Detroit’s Campus Martius Park to hear the announcement of the merger of the Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce with the National Business League. Photo/Facebook

The Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce, a statewide group that promotes Black businesses, acquired the National Business League, an organization with a similar mission, in a move the two organizations promised would help Black-owned businesses across the nation, according to Crain’s Detroit Business.

The new organization will be called the National Business League.

Founded in 1900 by Booker T. Washington, the league will relocate its headquarters from Washington to downtown Detroit. Ken Harris, CEO and co-founder of the chamber, will become the league’s CEO and president, and the organization will get a new logo featuring Washington’s likeness.

“We are now the National Business League,” Harris said in an announcement on Monday, June 19 at Campus Martius Park in Detroit. “This gives Black businesses a national platform with a 117-year history.”

Malcolm Branch, the league’s president emeritus, said the deal had been in the works for nearly two years. The idea, he said, was shared between Harris and Thomas Dortch, a former league chairman.

He declined to reveal the cost of the deal.

“The NBL national office has been maintained by the former President W. Ronald Evens for the last 15 years with little or no external funding,” said Branch in an email. “The MBCC has substantial administrative resources and new energy.”

Combining the two nonprofit organizations into one also gives the Michigan chamber a national reach, and the league, which has declined in growth, new leadership, direction and energy, according to the Detroit Free Press.

The timing of the announcement, made on Juneteenth, comes at a time of significant inequality facing the Black community.

Harris told the Free Press that the acquisition will expand the reach of the 5-year-old chamber from about 3,200 members in Michigan to an estimated 15,000 members in 365 chapters nationwide, potentially utilizing the league’s offices in Washington, Detroit, Atlanta and Los Angeles.

“A lot of people don’t know this organization was founded 12 years before the U.S. Chamber of Commerce,” Harris said of the league.

“You are witnessing not only the recognition of more than 47,000 African-American businesses that reside in Detroit, now you can be a part of the chance to be a part of the 2.5 million black businesses nationwide.”

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