CBCF hosts the Fourth Executive Economic Summit in Chicago, IL

WASHINGTON— The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Incorporated (CBCF) held its fourth Executive Economic Summit, Chicago Ready: Strategies for Black Business Growth and Development co-hosted by Exelon Corporation on May 9, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois.  The Summit took place at the University of Chicago Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation which helps students, faculty, staff, alumni, researchers and local entrepreneurs navigate the complex process of creating and growing a startup.

The fourth in a series, the Executive Economic Summit is part of  the CBCF’s strategy to expand its presence across the country by bringing together some of the nation’s most compelling thought leaders, entrepreneurs, financial professionals and policymakers. The goal is to explore the challenges faced by black entrepreneurs and identify solutions and policy recommendation to address the needs of black businesses.

CBCF board chair, Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, spoke on the lack of black business growth in the heart of the Midwest, “It is imperative that we address this decline in black wealth and come up with solutions that will lift up Chicago neighborhoods, eliminate food deserts, and give hope to little black boys and girls that they too can make a living by building their own businesses right here in Chicago.”

“Minority entrepreneurs do a lot to help our country compete globally; they bring new and innovative products to the global marketplace that many larger firms are unable to match,” said CBCF President and CEO A. Shuanise Washington. “We need to think carefully about how, in the current economic environment, our nation can best provide minority entrepreneurs with the support they need to expand job opportunities.”

In his morning remarks, Hill Harper, CBCF board member and president of Uncle Frank, Inc., emphasized the importance of self-esteem in nurturing success. He noted that a viable pipeline to economic prosperity improves the self-esteem of young people. “Unless we impact our young brothers and young sisters’ self-esteem first, all the other stuff doesn’t matter.”

The first panel of the day, Promoting Sustainable Policies for Black Business Growth in Chicago, focused on the role of state and federal investments state and federal investments as it relates to policies and strategies for black owned businesses. Panelist Mark L. Ferguson, supervisory economic development specialist of the Illinois District Office of the United States Small Business Administration, spoke about the need for collaboration, cooperation and communication in getting the word out about resources available to black businesses. Melinda Kelly, Chatham Business Association executive board chair, echoed this sentiment stressing the importance of social capital.

The second panel, Navigating Economic Opportunity in the Black Community, dealt with finding opportunities to grow business in the black community and investment strategies for Chicago’s black enterprises. Panelist Cheryl Grace, senior vice president of U.S. Strategic Community Alliances and Consumer Engagement at Nielsen, shared that understanding the influence of consumers in business development is key. “When we start to use our power as consumers, we can either affect change in a positive way, or we can shut it down.”

The final panel, Investment Strategies and Capital Access for Chicago’s Black Owned Businesses, featured a robust analysis of equity accrual. Panelists Susan Collins, Ph.D. of the Chicago Federal Reserve Board of Directors; Quintin Primo III, founder and CEO of Capri Investment Group LLC; and Ralph G. Moore, president of Ralph G. Moore & Associates discussed key factors influencing investor decisions. The emphasized that a smart idea, business plan and execution strategy are key.  “Many times investors will not give you money because you have a bad idea, stated Ralph G. Moore. “ People are looking at your judgment.”

The Summit also provided an opportunity to learn about Chicago’s up and coming business leaders. The afternoon featured TED style talks from four of Chicago’s next generation of entrepreneurs and a presentation by three business innovators and participants of the Polsky Exchange. In addition, John Rogers, University of Chicago Trustee and chairman, CEO and chief investment officer of Ariel Investments, highlighted the University’s efforts to advance small and minority-owned businesses and how it can be a model for colleges across the country.

Representative Sheila Jackson Lee closed out the Summit by reiterating the CBCF’s commitment to playing a significant role in helping sustain thriving black family owned business and major corporations in Chicago.

The Executive Economic Summit, Chicago Ready: Strategies for Black Business Growth and Development was co-hosted by Exelon Corporation. It was held with the support of contributing sponsors JPMorgan Chase & Company and United Airlines. Additional support was provided by BP Corporation North America, Inc. and Loop Capital.


The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Incorporated (CBCF), established in 1976, is a non-partisan, nonprofit, public policy, research and educational institute, committed to advancing the global black community by developing leaders, informing policy, and educating the public.



Anne Williams

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