Mi­nor­ity cham­ber on the move in South­ern Md.

CEO says mem­ber­ship re­quires in­volve­ment in ‘work­ing’ cham­ber

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By DAR­WIN WEIGEL dweigel@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @somd_bized­i­tor

The South­ern Mary­land Black Cham­ber of Com­merce changed its name last April to the South­ern Mary­land Mi­nor­ity Cham­ber of Com­merce to bet­ter re­flect the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s pur­pose.

“We changed it to ‘mi­nor­ity’ be­cause not all our mem­bers are black,” said Doris Cam­mack-Spencer, the busi­ness group’s pres­i­dent and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer.

Cam­mack-Spencer, who is from Ch­e­sa­peake Beach, said the or­ga­ni­za­tion started as a con­sor­tium of African Amer­i­can com­mu­nity or­ga­ni­za­tions that spun off what they re­al­ized was needed: a black cham­ber of com­merce.

“Once we formed, it be­came clear that we needed a black cham­ber down here,” she said be­fore a net­work­ing mixer last week at the Wal­dorf West Li­brary. “We formed the black cham­ber, and we’ve been mov­ing ever since.”

The cham­ber rep­re­sents 80 busi­nesses and non­prof­its in the three South­ern Mary­land coun­ties — Calvert, Charles and St. Mary’s — as well as south­ern Prince Ge­orge’s County. A num­ber of its mem­bers are also mem­bers of cham­bers of com­merce in their re­spec­tive coun­ties. In Charles, mi­nor­ity cham­ber mem­ber John Hug­gins of In­dian Head sits on the Charles Coun- ty Cham­ber of Com­merce’s Mil­i­tar y Al­liance Coun­cil.

“We’re a cham­ber but we don’t be­lieve in du­pli­ca­tion, we be­lieve in col­lab­o­ra­tion,” Cam­mack-Spencer said. “We part­ner with the other cham­bers, with the eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment or­ga­ni­za­tions. The thing that we do that’s dif­fer­ent is we are re­gional, we cover Charles, Calvert, St. Mary’s and south­ern Prince Ge­orge’s.”

She said the cham­ber’s fo­cus tends to­ward Mary­land pol­icy and leg­is­la­tion that “we feel is im­por­tant for mi­nor­ity busi­nesses.”

Govern­ment and busi­ness pro­cure­ment has been high on the list of pri­or­i­ties. Cam­mack-Spencer said Gov. Larry Ho­gan (R) formed a pro­cure­ment com­mis­sion last year and re­cently re­leased a re­port fa­vor­able to pri­or­i­tiz­ing mi­nor­ity-owned busi­nesses in pro­cure­ment con­tract­ing. On the busi­ness side, she said she’s been work­ing with MGM Re­sorts In­ter­na­tional to help the com­pany ful­fill its de­sire for mi­nor­ity-owned busi­ness to sup­ply ser vices and goods. Rep­re­sen­ta­tives from MGM were at the mixer to meet po­ten­tial busi­ness part­ners.

“One of the big is­sues, al­ways, is fi­nanc­ing for mi­nor­ity busi­nesses — try­ing to get banks to do more, but cer­tainly mak­ing sure that we are aware of funds that are avail­able,” Cam­mack-Spencer said.

She said the group is also in­ter­ested in the en­ergy sec­tor with ex­pan­sions and projects un­der way with Do­min­ion En­ergy — es­pe­cially its Cove Point LNG fa­cil­ity — Wash­ing­ton Gas, the gas-fired elec­tric gen­er­a­tion plants un­der con­struc­tion in Charles and Prince Ge­orge’s coun­ties, and the on­go­ing ex­pan­sion of so­lar en­ergy in South­ern Mary­land.

“We’re keep­ing en­ergy as one of our pri­mary projects this year, too,” she said. “There’s a lot go­ing on in the area: so­lar, Do­min­ion Cove Point, which we sup­port and is a mem­ber of our board, as is Wash­ing­ton Gas.”

She told the crowd at the mixer that a “clean en­ergy bill” was ve­toed by the gov­er­nor last year, and she hopes the leg­isla- ture will over­ride that veto this ses­sion. The bill calls for Mary­land to get 25 per­cent of its en­ergy from re­new­able sources such as wind and so­lar by 2020, up from the pre­vi­ous tar­get of 20 per­cent by 2022.

The bill also au­tho­rizes the use of the Strate­gic En­ergy In­vest­ment Fund “to pro­vide fund­ing for ac­cess to cap­i­tal for small, mi­nor­ity, and wom- en-owned busi­nesses in the ‘clean en­ergy in­dus­try,’” ac­cord­ing to the leg- is­la­ture’s web­site. SEIF fund­ing can also be used “to ben­e­fit small, mi­nor­ity, and women-owned busi­nesses in the clean en­ergy in­dus­try.”

The House of Del­e­gates over­rode the veto on Tues­day and the Se­nate, which passed the bill with a veto-proof ma­jor­ity last year, over­rode it on Thurs­day, mak­ing it law.

“It’s im­por­tant be­cause the bill pro­vides fund­ing for train­ing and grants for mi­nor­ity busi­nesses,” she said.

Ste­wart Cumbo, a long­time town coun­cil­man in Ch­e­sa­peake Beach, said he was pick­ing up an ap­pli­ca­tion that night to join. Al­though his ice cream par­lor busi­ness has long since closed, he said he still feels the need to sup­port mi­nor­ity busi­nesses di­rectly. He also sits on the board of the NAACP in Calvert County.

“I think the cham­ber is good, and I think it’s good to pro­mote mi­nor­ity busi­nesses,” Cumbo said. “I’d like to do ev­ery­thing I can to help mi­nor­ity busi­nesses and move for­ward is­sues of mi­nori­ties in gen­eral.”

Brian Klaas of Nan­je­moy and cur­rent pres­i­dent of the Charles cham­ber’s Mil­i­tar y Al­liance Coun­cil said all of the cham­bers in South­ern Mary­land need to work to­gether to keep and grow re­gional busi­nesses, and sup­port the mil­i­tary bases at In­dian Head in Charles and Patux­ent River in St. Mary’s.

“The work the cham­bers across South­ern Mary­land do is vi­tal to ev­ery­thing we do [with the Mil­i­tary Al­liance Coun­cil],” Klaas told the net­work­ing crowd be­fore an­nounc­ing the lat­est part­ner­ship be­tween Scan­di­na­vian mu­ni­tions com­pany Nammo and Naval Sur­face War­fare Cen­ter In­dian Head. The part­ner­ship is ex­pected to sup­port up to 160 jobs at the base over 30 years.

“We want to make sure to get that in­for­ma­tion out to all of the cham­bers so their mem­bers can take ad­van­tage of that,” he said, speak­ing of the base’s de­sire for more such part­ner­ships, large and small, in the fu­ture.

Guy Black, a re­tired state trooper and owner of Black­out In­ves­ti­ga­tions and Se­cu­rity Ser­vices Inc. in Wal­dorf, said he was one of the orig­i­nal mem­bers of the black cham­ber.

“I met Doris, and that’s all it took,” the La Plata man said. “I’m get­ting ac­tive in my com­mu­nity by work­ing for and pro­mot­ing change.

“The cham­ber has been good for me. It’s a chance to make a dif­fer­ence in the com­mu­nity.”

And that’s the at­ti­tude Cam­mack-Spencer said is re­quired in the South­ern Mary­land Mi­nor­ity Cham­ber of Com­merce.

“If you be­come a mem­ber, you’re ob­li­gated to join a com­mit­tee,” she told the 40 or so peo­ple gath­ered for the mixer. “We are a ‘work­ing’ cham­ber.”

STAFF PHOTO BY DAR­WIN WEIGEL

Doris Cam­mack-Spencer talks with, from left, Brian Klaas of Nan­je­moy, a mem­ber of the Charles County Cham­ber of Com­merce; Vince Hunger­ford of In­dian Head, co-chair­man of the Charles’ cham­ber’s Mil­i­tary Al­liance Com­mit­tee (MAC); and John Hug­gins of In­dian Head, who rep­re­sents the mi­nor­ity cham­ber on the MAC.

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