LIMA — A group of black business owners are forming their own Chamber of Commerce chapter to fill what the Lima African American Chamber of Commerce President Tim Callahan described as a void in support available to black-owned businesses in Lima.
“Being a minority business owner myself, we realized a unique set of needs that were just not being addressed or met by traditional chamber entities,” said Callahan, owner of Callahan’s bar on Spring Street.
Callahan said the new organization, which is applying for 501(c)(6) status, is not intended to be a rival to the Lima/Allen County Chamber of Commerce, which has no affiliation with the LAACC.
“We just honestly feel like there’s a lack of communication between the black community and the (Lima/Allen County) Chamber of Commerce even though they’ve made several attempts to reach out to the black community and they got minimal to no response to it via the Walter Potts Center,” Callahan said. “None of them have actually been successful of grabbing onto the black community and making it move forward, and that’s the void that I’m trying to fill.”
The Walter C. Potts Center was founded in 2006 to assist small and minority business owners. Its founder, Jerome O’Neal, said the Potts Center has “done a lot to promote minority and small businesses.” He pointed to a recent series of entrepreneurial support seminars, which culminated in a “Shark Tank”-style pitch competition in which the top contestants were eligible for microloans for their businesses. O’Neal said other initiatives are in the works.
“I think the (Lima/Allen) Chamber’s done a good job of trying to reach out,” he said.
Jed Metzger, president of the Lima/Allen County Chamber of Commerce, said he believes the LAACC will be a positive addition for the community and “will work with them as much as we can.”
“I think their purpose will be similar but a bit different … I think it fills a void in the community for reaching out to other black business owners,” Metzger said.
Callahan said the LAACC is still filling board positions and accepting new members. The first LAACC meeting will be held at 6 p.m. March 27 at Philippian Missionary Baptist Church, which Callahan confirmed will be open to the public. The church is located at 190 E. Eighth St.
Reach Mackenzi Klemann at 567-242-0456.