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Tampa Chamber to lend helping hand to minority businesses with new accelerator program

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Tampa Bay-area minority-owned small businesses could get a leg up through a new program from the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce.

On Thursday, the Chamber announced its Minority Business Accelerator program, geared towards helping Black and Hispanic business owners identify and overcome barriers to growth.

According to the Chamber website, in Hillsborough County, the demographic between minorities and non-minorities is split nearly 1:1. Hispanics represent the largest segment of the minority population-base (27 percent), followed by Blacks (nearly 18 percent) for about 45 percent.

The MBA program – three years in the making — seeks to give minority small-business owners the tools and knowledge for better organization, cultivate business referrals and raise visibility.

As the first part of the Chamber’s 10-year plan for increased inclusiveness, Tampa Chamber Chair Mike Griffin hopes to announce the MBA inaugural class Dec. 14 at the Chamber’s 132nd annual meeting.

“I have been involved in this project since I co-chaired the Minority Business Caucus two years ago,” says Bemetra Simmons, who will serve as MBA program chair. “This initiative is the culmination of researching similar programs in other communities and understanding the needs of the Tampa/Hillsborough County area.

Simmons added: “I am excited to chair the first class of our Minority Business Accelerator and I look forward to helping Black and Hispanic-owned and operated businesses in our community reach their fullest potential.”

The Chamber identifies three common growth barriers effecting many minority businesses, which limits their ability to flourish and contribute more significantly to both Tampa and Hillsborough County economies:

— Limited access to capital. Many minority businesses have limited personal funds to offset the capital needs of their business and have a tough time generating sustainable income to be used to reinvest in growth.

— Limited access to key decision makers. Many minority businesses cannot get past “gatekeepers” and gain access to key decision makers that purchase their goods and services.

— Limited access to information and knowledge. While many minority businesses are experts in their respective fields, they lack the access to information and knowledge to facilitate capacity building and/or business growth.

Recruitment for the program begins in August, with two Community Info Sessions before the application period. Details of the MBA program are at


Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

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