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This article by Kathleen McGinn Spring was prepared for the October 9, 2002 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Onward and Upward
The Metropolitan Trenton African American Chamber of
Commerce (MTAACC) celebrates its fifth anniversary on Saturday,
12, at a dinner dance gala, "Moving Onward and Upward," at
the Trenton Marriott, at 6 p.m. Cost: $150.
phenomenal." When he took over three years ago, the organization
had 20 members. It now has 150. "Merrill Lynch, Fleet, Sovereign,
Commerce, First Union," Harmon says, ticking off a list of
institutions that have joined MTAACC. Bristol-Myers Squibb is a
too, as is Janssen Pharmaceutical, PSEG, Thomas Edison State College,
and Mercer County Community College. Professional organizations and
small businesses have joined also, he says, naming a number of law
and accounting firms, architects, retailers, and construction firms.
"We’re selling mutually-beneficial relationships," says
The minority companies on whose behalf MTAACC advocates are fully
prepared to do business with corporations and government entities,
he says. The organization exists to bring qualified service providers
together with those in need of their services.
In advocating for minority companies — and preparing them to enter
into relationships with big business — MTAACC has expanded its
definition of minority. "Our mission when we started," says
Harmon, "was to increase the bottom line of African American
Now we include women and other people of color." The change was
occasioned by a realization that the groups face similar challenges.
MTAACC has expanded in other ways too. "We have members throughout
the state," says Harmon. "As far as I know," he says,
"we’re the only African American organization articulating an
In speaking of this agenda, Harmon betrays a hint of frustration.
He sees Trenton’s increasing prosperity, and says minority businesses
are "being blindsided by people you think would be more
Is he speaking of politicians, government agencies, successful
businessmen? All of the above, he says.
"Businesses that are minority owned, but have achieved success,
you would think they would provide all the help they can," Harmon
says. "Opposition comes from strange places. How do we break the
cycle of individualism?"
State and local politicians have not been as helpful as they could
be, in his opinion. "When big business is doing business in
there should be early discussions to establish relationships,"
he says. Minority businesses should be aware of the opportunities,
but, he says, often they are not. "When we find out about
Harmon says, "the construction has already started. If you don’t
know, you can’t participate."
Still, there are bright spots. Of the construction of the Trenton
Marriott, Harmon says, "from a labor standpoint, they did an
job." And MTAACC is about to announce details of its participation
in a grant by the Garfield Foundation through which it will partner
with Trenton Downtown and the Trenton Technology Incubator to bring
more minority businesses into the downtown area.
At its fifth anniversary celebration MTAACC honors those who have
helped to boost minority business. Among the honorees are Yardville
National Bank, St. Francis Medical Center, Trenton Tractor &
Jeffries Heating & Air, Mark Newman, Richard Bilotti, and William
These individuals and organizations are doing what Harmon says more
must do. "We must," he says, "connect to the prosperity
of the city."
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