In 2006, Kevin Dailey, a Black insurance broker who had moved to McKinney, was looking for other professionals to network with in the area. 

Collin County didn’t have a large Black population then and the number of Black-owned companies was small. Dailey thought that by working together their businesses could grow. So he and his company’s loan officer, McKinney native Jamal Murray, decided to form the Collin County Black Chamber of Commerce.

Fifteen years later, recent national discussions over racial inequality are bringing more awareness and support for Black-owned businesses, many of which have taken hard economic hits during the pandemic. Now the Collin County Black Chamber of Commerce is beginning to get noticed by cities and corporations in Collin County, which are helping Black businesses get back on their feet and grow.

One of the most recent to step up in North Texas is the City of Allen. In late June, the city became an official partner with the Collin County Black Chamber of Commerce in its ever-growing effort to increase its presence within minority communities. (About 35 percent of residents in Allen.)

“We’re on the move,” says Dee Dee Bates, president of the Collin County Black Chamber of Commerce. “This new partnership allows us to stand in unity, as we serve a common goal of increasing economic success, growth, and prosperity with Collin County. We are stronger together.”

Others, too, are leading the way with recent sign-ons with the Black chamber, like the Frisco Economic Development Corporation and the University of North Texas, which is building a new satellite campus in Frisco. Other large business partners and sponsors include the Toyota Corporation, Comerica Bank, and New York Life.

The City of Plano is also in communication with the Collin County Black Chamber of Commerce about establishing a partnership, Bates says, and she hopes others will join soon.

“These new partnerships come at a time where Black communities need economic enrichment and serve as beacons of light and hope,” adds Rosalind Booker, vice president of the Collin County Black Chamber of Commerce.

Allen’s new alliance with the Collin County Black Chamber of Commerce strengthens the entire region, Allen Mayor Debbie Stout says.

The Collin County Black Chamber of Commerce offers medical testing and protective equipment such as thermometers and masks, which are being donated, to help businesses re-open safely. A virtual job fair is also being planned and workshops are being scheduled to empower voters.

“We look forward to building opportunities for civic leadership and engaging in ongoing conversations that work to foster a strong and inclusive community,” Mayor Stout writes in a statement to Local Profile.

.Washington D.C./USA- June 7th 2020: Black Lives Matter protesters gathered down 16thSt NW and Black Lives Matter Plaza. Red Marker/Shutterstock.com

Today, about 10 percent of Collin County’s population is African American and 4.6 percent of Collin County’s 82,000 businesses are owned by African Americans. One of the commerce’s missions is to procure departments of corporations and governments to encourage purchases from minority-owned businesses.

“We need to let others know we are here,” Booker says. “We want to be a catalyst for growth, especially during these times.”

But you don’t have to be Black to be a part of the Collin County Black Chamber of Commerce, Booker stresses. An Allen realtor, she also notes that she has seen an uptick in the number of people wanting to move to Collin County to be closer to their jobs that are also located here.

“We build stronger communities together,” she says.

The chamber’s partners have already been doing some great things.

The Frisco Economic Development Corporation donated thermal thermometers to help the Black chambers partners test essential workers in order to safely re-open their doors. “A lot of businesses, many owned by minorities, are struggling right now and we are trying to help them get back on their feet,” Booker says.

The Collin County Black Chamber of Commerce hosts general membership meetings monthly with training and business development opportunities that are listed on its website.

The chamber’s goal is to transition from 100 percent leadership by volunteers to a fully staffed and funded organization, Bates says.

Shortly after the protests against police brutality erupted around the world, Bates released a letter on the chamber’s website, urging people to remain hopeful and encouraging people to join together for change while reflecting on how they as a community — as a “Chamber family” — can contribute to meaningful dialogue and plans of action in the fight against inequality, discrimination, and racism of any kind.

Bates pointed out that it is important to communicate and have an open conversation with our friends and colleagues of a different race. Communication, she says, is necessary for positive resolution, which is exactly what the Black Chamber of Commerce is striving to do in Collin County.

“I would like to share a personal experience,” she continued in her letter. “In a recent conversation with a friend of a different race, I was surprised to learn she took offense to ‘Black Lives Matter’ as she assumed it meant only ‘Black Lives Matter’. Because she was open to hear and see from my lens as a Black woman and have open dialogue, she was able to understand the deeper roots of the BLM slogan. While ALL lives matter, I was grateful for the discussion and the chance to share that the meaning of Black Lives Matter exceeds far beyond the literal term. It is a cause … a plea … a movement for change. The message promotes awareness of historical & habitual social inequality and police brutality against Blacks. It’s a proclamation and advocacy for change to abolish injustice, lack of dignity, and disrespect of Black humanity. 

“Our simple, yet important discussion caused her to openly share this new understanding with her personal community. To witness this shift in understanding was beyond imaginable!”

The Collin County Black Chamber of Commerce wants to shift this understanding by seeking ways to collaborate on events that focus on the improvement of race relations. Examples include jointly facilitating unconscious bias training and participating in Dallas Dinner Table, an independent non-profit organization founded in 1999 with a focus on improving race relations in the DFW metroplex.

“[We’re] so happy to see the cities of Collin County investing and taking time with the CCBCC,” Corey Kirkendoll, the chamber’s board president, writes in a late June news release. “It shows proof we are moving in the right direction to ensure Black business needs and priorities are getting represented where it counts.”

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The chamber’s non-profit, Collin County Black Chamber Foundation, has established a Youth Supply Chain & Entrepreneurship Academy. Wells Fargo recently awarded a grant to initiate a seven-month Business Blueprint program for entrepreneurs that have been in business for at least two years. The chamber also offers three to six youth scholarships to promote higher education.

As part of the chamber, the Collin County Black Chamber of Commerce Young Professionals of Collin County began in January to provide a platform for change in current and future generations.

The group had to pivot a bit due to COVID-19, moving their meetings on-line, but chairwoman Quinn Love says she is proud of the community partnerships they have already developed in the last few months.

Big initiatives are on the horizon with mentorship programs, scholarship opportunities, and professional development events, she says.

“We are the future,” she says. “And with more Fortune 500 companies and small Black-owned businesses forming in Collin County, it only makes sense that we grow even more. We are looking forward to partnering with more businesses interested in investing in Black young professionals right in their backyard in Collin County.”

For more information about joining or supporting, please visit the Collin County Black Chamber of Commerce’s website at ccblackchamber.org

Annette Nevins

Annette Bernhard Nevins is a Plano-based award-winning journalist who specializes in breaking news and features. She has held staff positions at several Texas newspapers, including The Dallas Morning News,...