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Grand Rapids Southeast side to become 'headquarters' for Black-owned businesses

Posted at 7:00 PM, Aug 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-11 19:00:19-04

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH — A man in Grand Rapids is leading the effort to turn the Southeast side into a hub for Black-owned businesses.

Jamiel Robinson, the Founder of the Grand Rapids Area Black Businesses tells FOX 17 that it’s all about creating opportunities and connecting those business owners with the resources they need to be successful.

Not only is the project giving GRABB a space to call their own, but will hopefully give others a chance to make their visions come to life.

The building that will be home to District 2012 on Eastern Avenue in Grand Rapids may not look like much now, but Robinson can slowly see his dreams, coming to life.

He said, “Right now, we work with over 150 businesses in the area today, so when we open up our space, we are looking to increase that to as many businesses that are out there seeking support.”

Robinson hopes that the space will become the epicenter for Black-owned businesses.

“This is a place where we look to have them convene, get support, resources, information, peer-to-peer networking, mentoring things like that,” Robinson said.

The goal though, is for the area to become so much more.

Robinson said, “We can have a district that is anchored by Black businesses and hopefully it radiates out to where more Black people want to own homes in this area. We can create ways in which, not only can we help raise the economics of Grand Rapids, but also raise the quality of life for African-Americans.”

However, like many things in 2020, the District 2012 project is taking a bit of a back seat because of COVID-19.

“Instead of us focusing on our project in this building, we focused on how can we help as many Black businesses survive and then thrive after COVID,” Robinson said.

According to a recent study from the Federal Reserve, 41% percent of Black-owned businesses across the U.S. shut down between February and April, which is why Robinson is hoping others support Black-owned businesses now, more than ever.

He said, “We are not looking for people to say ‘this is a cool kind of challenge thing,’ but to look for businesses where you value the services, you value the products that they sell, and look to make them a part of your monthly spend.”

He hopes come Spring 2021, their blighted building will be transformed into a vibrant spot for goals of all sizes to become a reality.

Robinson said, “Our goal is to create wealth for the Black businesses and their families.”

The District 2012 Project architect is Grand Rapids-based Isaac V. Norris & Associates and the interior design firm is local firm, Tiffany Eden Design.

Visit the GRABB Facebook page to learn more about the project and to donate to the project.