Big turnout at Chamber for minority open house

By Jim Fair, Editor
Published on Thursday, February 23, 2012

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William Grady has been a proponent of bringing diversity into the forefront of the business community. He helped organize today's Chamber of Commerce Minority Open House.

William Grady has been a proponent of bringing diversity into the forefront of the business community. He helped organize today's Chamber of Commerce Minority Open House.



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The crowd overflowed the conference room and guests were talking along the stairwells, upstairs hallway and front lobby during the Minority Open House at the Greer Chamber of Commerce.

The crowd overflowed the conference room and guests were talking along the stairwells, upstairs hallway and front lobby during the Minority Open House at the Greer Chamber of Commerce.

The Greater Greer Chamber of Commerce with Allen Smith and John Mansure paving the way, are trying to put a new face on the business organization.

"We've been male, pale and stale for too long," Smith, President and CEO of the chamber, repeatedly tells audiences at his public speaking engagements.

Mansure, Chairman of the Chamber Board, said bluntly, "I can help more now because I'm board chairman.  Diversity is important to the hospital and minorities in business need to be inclusive. I believe this is a big opportunity." Mansure is President of Greer Memorial Hospital.

Today's Chamber Minority Open House was a huge success with just under 100 businessmen and women attending. "Some people came up and we talked ideas," Mansure said. "They were asking how to get help for their businesses."

William Grady, 60, helped plan the open house. He is a former barber turned owner of a professional cleaning business, Grady Minority LLC, and a proponent of diversifying Greer's workplace and agency committees. He tossed out a common theme among business organizations that have held open houses, summits and forums during February as a celebration to Black History Month. "Let's not use this open house as a reason to celebrate February's Black History month and then forget about it," Grady suggested.

Greer City Council, meeting for its annual retreat, paused with Mayor Danner, City Administrator Ed Driggers and department heads to appear en masse at the open house. "That says a lot that city council would take time out of the meetings and show their support here," Smith said.

Grady was invited to speak to the gathering during a brief program. "Keep in mind that this doesn't create miracles, it creates opportunities. It can get you in the door but only you can keep yourself in." Grady's pointed remarks were from his experience of managing successful businesses in Greer and encouraging other minorities to promote their businesses to large and small companies.

Mansure said, "Minority businesses face completely different challenges than white businesses and we want to know those challenges."

"We've done a good job with age discrimination but we have fallen short with racial equality. Today is when the action starts and we're looking at what issues we face," Smith said.

Minority business owners came from Greenville, Spartanburg, Lyman and represented other upstate ares such as Anderson. "I can't tell you when I've seen so many people in the conference room and hallway," Patty Cornelius, of the chamber said.

Ramon Nieves-Lugo is the marketing consultant for the South Carolina Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. He is CEO and CMO at Unicomm Media Group.  "There are 9,000 Hispanics in the Greenville/Berea/Taylors area. We're a joint community and we're all together because we're all one culture," Nieves said. He does business on the Internet and Nieves said that is the big equalizer. "You don't see color on the Internet."

Nieves and Evelyn Lugo will be at the Greer Memorial Hospital's Hispanic Health Summit Saturday at City Hall beginning at  9:30 a.m. There are 400 flu vaccines that will be available.

William Marcus, manager at Palmetto Bank, has been networking at chamber events recruiting business and reaching out as a minority professional. "Some of the barriers minorities face are the same as everybody else. We need something like this to overtly discuss issues in our community and bring us all together," he said.

Smith promised the Greer chamber is embracing diversity over the long-haul. "We're beginning to develop a rapport with minority businesses. We going to institutionalize diversity in the Greer chamber and meet on a regular basic. We are going to break down the walls of perception. We are all citizens of Greer and we need to be together as one."

The chamber has scheduled a Minority Business Summit this summer. Along the way Smith said committee and workshops will be put in place.

"Diversity shouldn't be forced on anybody," Smith said. "We need to come together to help each over."

People mentioned in this article. Click a name to view more articles for that person.

Reno Deaton, Ed Driggers, John Mansure

Businesses mentioned in this article.

City of Greer, Greater Greer Chamber of Commerce, Greer Development Corporation, Greer Memorial Hospital, Partnership for Tomorrow

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