City council to establish program to help minorities, women owned businesses

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COLUMBIA — The Columbia City Council wants to make the city friendlier to disadvantaged businesses. 

The city council will have its first reading and introduction for the minority and women owned business program during its meeting Monday night.

In a memo released by the city it said white unemployment is less than 4 percent in Columbia and African-American unemployment is more than 15 percent, making African-Americans the highest unemployed racial group in the city. 

The city is working with Business Consultant, James Whitt to help create this program.

"Part of this plan is to focus on helping to do something about the high unemployment within the black community and the disparities we've seen between black and white unemployment," Whitt said. 

Whitt said the program is still a work in progress but once established will help with the unemployment problem especially in the black community. 

He also said a major part of the plan is to grow minority and women owned businesses so they can hire other minorities. 

"One of the strategies is to grow healthy, viable businesses that can hire people and pay better wages," he said. 

In Columbia there are currently more than 100 businesses owned by minorities or women.

Big Daddy's BBQ owner, Lloyd Banks said black businesses are extremely important when it comes to Columbia's economy and setting the example for other minorities in the area. 

"It's important that others who are African-Americans or minorities see that anything is possible," Lloyd said. 

Whitt also said helping minority and women owned businesses will help more than just this group of people but Columbia as a whole. 

"If you build stronger minority and women owned businesses, it's just going to help the strength of your community," he said. "If a community is growing throughout the whole community, then it makes the community stronger.

A formal presentation will be given by Whitt during the Nov. 7 city council meeting. 

Whitt said once a structured plan is complete he hopes to start it in 2017.