Skot Welch first learned two years ago about an organization that works to develop and connect Black business professionals, entrepreneurs and students.
Welch, the principal and founder of Grand Rapids-based management consulting firm Global Bridgebuilders, had interviewed the National Black MBA Association for a client. After further researching the nationwide organization, Welch decided he’d like to have a chapter in Grand Rapids.
He then assembled a team of local business professionals and set out to organize one.
On Nov. 4, after two years of operating on an interim basis and going through what Welch describes as a lengthy and arduous process, the National Black MBA Association Greater Michigan Chapter formally launched as the 42nd chapter nationwide for the Atlanta-based organization.
The group’s mission is to support the attraction, retention and development of African American business talent, from students to 20-year senior executives, and “to promote just another level of collaboration and professional development within the African American community and, of course, you can’t do that without affecting the overall community,” said Welch, president of the Greater Michigan chapter.
“It really is looking to create professional development opportunities to recruit and to attract African American talent, and also provide networking events for the community at large,” Welch said. “The war for talent is real, and I think this is a great opportunity to create more opportunities where people will come to be employees and entrepreneurs, but they want to stay.”
Operated by a volunteer staff of executives from local companies, and supported financially by several business partner sponsors, the chapter started with about 65 members and covers all of Michigan outside of Metro Detroit, where a chapter has operated since 1976.
Forming the Grand Rapids-based Greater Michigan chapter “demonstrates that we are a landing place for African American talent,” Welch said.
“This is another opportunity for us to articulate our commitment to having an inclusive economy and community nationally because now we’ve become part of 41 other chapters,” he said. “Our community’s growing up and maturing and it’s becoming more global in nature, and also really much more national.”
The Greater Michigan chapter will organize programming and host events for professional development and networking that are designed to help members along the corporate or entrepreneurial pathway. The chapter “will enhance access to graduate management education programs and career opportunities in various management fields,” according to an announcement on the chapter’s launch.
An inaugural gathering, called “Handshakes and Headshots,” is scheduled for 6-7:30 p.m. Nov. 30 at the Warner Building at 1500 Ottawa Ave., in downtown Grand Rapids.
Through professional networking, the Greater Michigan chapter also will seek to connect Black entrepreneurs across the state and between chapters across the nation, Welch said. The chapter is “for those folks who want to grow their business and meet different connections and different networks, and also those folks that want to take the corporate path,” he said.
“Our chapter’s establishment is not just a mark of growth for the National Black MBA Association, but a beacon of hope and opportunity for the professionals and entrepreneurs in greater Michigan,” Welch said. “If we have an inclusive economy, truly, we have a stronger economy overall.”
Founded in 1970, the National Black MBA Association has chapters that stretch across the U.S., from the East Coast to the West Coast. In the Midwest, National Black MBA Association chapters operate in Chicago, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Indianapolis, and Cleveland, Columbus and Dayton, Ohio.