HBA Economic Summit Rocks

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The day was not met without controversy as a group of demonstrators gathered outside the Harlem State Office Building, accusing Summit organizers of consorting with the banks and Columbia University . . .

The Harlem Business Alliance Fourth Annual Business Economic Summit took place on September 24th at the Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. State Office building, located at 163 West 125th Street in Harlem, New York City. The goal of the summit was to come up with solutions to the socio-economic and economic issues affecting Harlem businesses and the community-at-large. 

This year’s theme, “Retooling for Growth in the New Harlem,”  set the stage for local, city and statewide government officials, community leaders and representatives from academic, financial and cultural institutions, small business owners, other entrepreneurs, and economic and development specialists, to come together and brainstorm possible solutions to issues such as the onslaught of Black businesses being driven out of Harlem due to the shortage of affordable commercial space and difficulty accessing capital.

The HBA Business Economic Summit, which is held annually during the month of September, garnered hundreds of people, from all over the city and state of New York, and beyond.  All of the workshops were packed to capacity as business professionals and enthusiasts gathered to connect, obtain knowledge and exchange resources.

The day started at 8:00 am with a beautiful continental breakfast, giving everyone a chance to meander and mingle while breaking bread and sipping their choice beverage together while getting to know one another.  Walter Edwards, Chairman of the Harlem Business Alliance and Willie Walker, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. State Office Building Manager gave a warm welcome address.  Opening remarks were presented by NY City Council, 9th District, Inez Dickens, US House of Representatives’ Charles Rangel, NYS Lieutenant Governor, David Paterson, NYS Senator, 30th District, Bill Perkins, Manhattan Borough President, Scott Stringer and NY City Council, 7th District, Robert Jackson.

Business coach, author and renowned motivational speaker, Andrew Morrison engaged his full-house audience in a stimulating workshop entitled, The Keys To Growing Any Business In 90 Days.  Laced with his signature twist of humor, Morrison shared powerful, money-making strategies and resources that people can put immediately to use.  That day, people walked away understanding the step-by-step two-page proposal process that landed Andrew Morrison 6 figures. Jesting in truth, Morrison took time out to say, “Hello,” to the loyal  “motivational crackheads,” (as he calls them) that he recognized in the audience – not mentioning any names, of course, but referring to a number of people who come to every one of his seminars, get all hyped and motivated,  then go home and do nothing.

Lloyd Grant, Publisher of the popular Kip Business Report, led an informative panel discussion on Franchise Opportunities and Financing.  Attendees left with a plethora of useful information on the subject.  Other panel topics included Increasing and Tracking Sales Through Technology, Access to Capital/Establishing an Investment Fund, New Developments in Harlem, and Harlem and the Media, also moderated by Lloyd Grant.  Panelists included Bernard Bell, Senior Vice President of TV One, Cathy Lee Jones, Executive Vice President, Urban Communications (former manager of Wu-Tang Clan), Dr. Bob Lee, WBLS Radio Personality and founder of  Make the Grade Foundation, Pat Stevenson, Publisher of Harlem Community News and this reporter, Brenda Jeanne Wyche, Managing Editor of Black Star News and Harlem Business News.

Cathy Lee Jones educated business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs on the power of advertising.  Jones shared money-making secrets including how to get advertising that works, how to get free publicity and many other useful business success tips for growing businesses.  “When you set out to start a business, you must focus on promotion.  That’s the game you have to play and Black people have missed it. The more famous you are, the more money you get.   Black people need to learn how to invest in publicity.  Without that, you’re going nowhere,” Ms. Jones constructively chided.

Pat Stevenson of Harlem Community News boasted ten years in the media, ironically shocking the audience during the panel discussion entitled, Harlem and the Media, stating essentially that, other than the usual disparities, there is nothing wrong with the way Harlem is changing.  Stevenson defended White business owners in Harlem, saying that some have a right to be there just as much as African Americans do, based on the length of time they have run their businesses there. Stevenson further stunned the audience, as she concluded by smugly admonishing African Americans, stating that they need to do their due diligence, or they will be pushed out of Harlem.  Naturally, being on the same panel with Stevenson, this reporter, while eyes bulging and mouth wide open,  was compelled to comment but, going with the flow of the moderator and the atmosphere of the room, decided to challenge those statements at a later date.  (Stay tuned.)

WBLS-FM radio personality and beloved community servant, Dr. Bob Lee, discussed his dedication to Harlem, emphasizing the importance of educating our youth.   For the past 25 years, Dr. Bob has been visiting community-based organizations and schools throughout the Tri-State area motivating students on the importance of being better than your best.  Many graduates recall speeches given by Dr. Bob that led them to excellence in their passionate goals.

This compelled Dr. Lee to create the “Make The Grade Foundation – a collaboration between parents, teachers, students, the community and clergy.  On Thursday, November 8th, Dr. Lee will present the Second Annual Make The Grade Foundation Awards Banquet at the New York Hilton in New York City.  For more information on how you can participate, logon to http://www.makethegrade.org/02mtga.html .
Dr. Lee also took the time to pay homage to his colleagues at WBLS, Steve Harvey, Wendy Williams, Vaughn Harper, Hezekiah Walker, and the entire WBLS family.

TV One's Bernard Bell, discussed innovations that are taking place at TV One, making the station more vigilant in terms of financial literacy and economic empowerment.  Mr. Bell shared some inspiring information on the phenomenal Cathy Hughes, Founder and Chairperson of Radio One, Inc., and Chairperson of TV One, applauding her “steel and velvet” management style.

Cornelius Ricks, President of Half Moon Marketing & Publicity did a remarkable job, making Harlem Business Alliance Fourth Annual Business Economic Summit a huge success.  His high energy and interactive style; taking the time to engage with his guests individually, introducing and connecting guests to one-another, making everyone feel at home and drawing media attention to his guests; really defines what PR is all about. Want to overcome shyness?  Get anywhere in Ricks' radar -- you'll come bursting out of your cocoon fluttering those powdery wings in to time.  Ricks’ engaging, powerful and sparkling presence kept the event live and stimulating, making the Harlem Business Alliance Fourth Annual Business Economic Summit a stellar event.  Ricks also brings us the Circle of Sisters Expo, Harlem Book Fair, and other acclaimed and anticipated events.

Among the many attendees this reporter ran into this year, Shandel Pitts of Black Cat Design, who did the signage and artwork throughout the venue for the HBA Business Economic Summit this year, Yveline Legagneur of the State University of New York Manhattan Educational Opportunity Center (BMCC/CUNY), offering free GED services and other educational assistance, Phil Andrews, CEO of Power Networking Series, which was named one of the top networking groups in New York City by New York Enterprise Report, electrifying motivational speaker, teacher and entertainment extraordinaire, Ed Blunt , motivational powerhouse, Dennis Rahim Watson of the National Black Youth Leadership Council , Byron W. Perry, Business Consultant and Founder  of KIDS, Inc. (“Kids need to make money, too.”), Dallas Lee Bell, (Welcome to Harlem) , acclaimed promotion and marketing strategist, liaison, and herald for African American business and community affairs, Mr. Bell also offers FREE event posting on his website, www.welcometoharlem.com , a business and community resource and information site which is very popular in the African American community  , Wendell Niles, President and Chief Strategist of Niles Advertising, Harlem Opera Theater (Gregory Hopkins, Artistic Director), Sonia Pichardo, stay-at-home mom and author of, “If This Is Growing Up,” Dorothy Lamar, representative for GoSmallBiz.com, Dara Mathelier-Etienne, Melissa Bell, representing WaMu, Alan Desgrottes, representing Total Merchant Services offering credit card terminals, Lynne Holden, MD, Executive Director of Mentoring In Medicine, Inc, Department of Emergency Medicine, Bronx, NY, Queen Mother Dr. Delois Blakely, Chairperson of Harlem Women International, Maxine McCrey Montano, President of Harlem Women International, People United for Children, Inc., to name a few.

Buzz Television (Channel 57 Fridays 10:30pm NYC) got footage of some very significant components and personalities at the event.

But the day was not met without controversy as a group of demonstrators gathered outside the State Office Building, inside of which the Summit was being held.  The demonstrators accused Summit organizers of consorting with the banks and Columbia University to monopolize Harlem and push long time African Americans out, which has created a lot of tension in the community for quite some time.  Walter Edwards , Chairman of the HBA confronted demonstrator, Nellie Hester Bailey , co-Founder of the Harlem Tenants Council (HTC), created to "provide relief for the poor and to combat community deterioration as a result of the accelerated pace of gentrification in Harlem." as the crowd of demonstrators gathered around the two.  The discussion came to a close as Edwards and Bailey agreed to meet at a later date to discuss the issue.  Later on, one of the demonstrators, who had entered the Summit as part of the audience during a panel discussion, burst out shouting opposition to the Summit, interrupting the presentation and had to be escorted out of the building.   

In spite of the commotion, the day ended beautifully,  with a delicious Southern-style luncheon , complements of Windows Over Harlem.   Minister Kevin Muhammad of Muhammad Mosque No. 7 gave an inspiring keynote address.

It was a magnificent event with very significant results.  Valuable relationships were ignited; others rekindled, everyone had a wonderful time and left with a better understanding of the African American business community and possible solutions for a better tomorrow.


The Harlem Business Alliance  Fourth Annual Business Economic Summit was sponsored by WaMu, U.S. Trust Bank of America Private Wealth Management, New York City School Construction Authority, Citibank, North Fork Bank, Carver Federal Savings Bank, Verizon and Columbia University.


Brenda Jeanne Wyche is Managing Editor for The Black Star News and Harlem Business News.  If you have a solution, contact Brenda@blackstarnews.com .  Maybe we’ll talk.


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