The Fort Wayne Black Chamber of Commerce is looking to grow, and it plans to create a new website and Black-owned business directory.

Clifford Clarke, president of the Fort Wayne Black Chamber of Commerce board and owner of C2 IT Advisors, talked to Rotary Club of Fort Wayne members Jan. 11 about what’s coming from the chamber.

Established in 2012, the chamber has its office at 1832 Paulding Road. Its members generally are Black business owners and owners of small and disadvantaged businesses, but membership is open to anyone. Currently, it has fewer than 100 members. Membership costs listed on its website are $500 for businesses with 50 or more employees; $200 for those with fewer than 50 employees or $100 for an individual.

The chamber has a variety of programs that focus on financial health, mental health, access to capital and understanding local government.

One program, Club 720, helps people earn a credit score of 700 or better. Doing so allows the holder to get lower interest rates.

The chamber plans to release an updated directory of Black-owned and led businesses in Fort Wayne later this month.

Because the chamber used a grant from Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne and received help from SEED, along with advertising dollars, Clarke said the group is hoping to make the directory available for free.

Copies will go first to those listed in the publication as well as advertisers.

The chamber is preparing for a first run of a few hundred copies. The hope is that once people see it, more business owners will want to be listed, so plans are to have a second run midyear.

The chamber is also looking to relaunch its BUILD program, which promotes skilled labor training.

The chamber is looking to create a more diverse and energetic community, aspects that draw new people to a place, Clarke said.

Working with Greater Fort Wayne, Greater Fort Wayne Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and New Allen Alliance, the Black Chamber is looking to build on Fort Wayne’s reputation and go beyond being a low-cost place to live.

It, along with others, is also partnering with Fort Wayne UNITED on the United Front initiative that resulted from last year’s social unrest following the death of George Floyd, a Black suspect who died in Minneapolis Police custody. They’re holding educational sessions on topics that include stereotype threat, privilege and power, and organizational bias. The next event includes keynote speeches at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Jan. 27. Details on a series of webinars and other information are available at FWUnitedFront.com.

For more information about the chamber, see www.fortwayneblackchamber.org or call the office at 260-441-0100.

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