The Austin Town Hall was the site Friday of the 3rd annual “Taking Care of Business Summit.” The summit was the idea of state Rep. Deborah Graham (38th). Graham said that shortly after taking office, she wondered what could she do to help the businesses that make up her 78th district.

Now three years and counting, Rep. Graham, state Sen. Don Harmon (39th) and Ald. Isaac Carothers (24th) have joined together with the Austin Chamber of Commerce, the Austin African American Business Networking Association and many others to create the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Summit.

The summit allowed individuals to choose from workshops on business planning, management, financing, and marketing. Brandon Johnson, Chief of Staff for Rep. Graham remarked: “This is a way to empower businesses who may not have the time to seek out services on their own. The summit gives businesses the opportunity to access governmental agencies whose purpose is to help emerging businesses.”

The summit also gave entrepreneurs the opportunity to speak with the many banks whose focus is to help emerging businesses to grow, such as Charter One, which in 2005, was recognized as securing the most SBA (Small Business Administration) loans than any other bank.

According to data from the U.S. Department of Commerce, the number of businesses owned by African-Americans grew more than four times the national rate for all businesses from 1997 to 2002. Blacks owned 1.2 million businesses in 2002, an increase of 45 percent from 1997. So it is a safe bet that what was started as a way to increase information for businesses in the 78th district is and will continue to be a major force in increasing the success rate for all our businesses.