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Florence Chamber shining diversity through its PRISM

Author: John D. Russell

Source: SC Now

September 26, 2014

FLORENCE, S.C. — The Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce is looking to shine a bigger light in the business community by PRomoting the Inclusion of Small and Minority (PRISM) businesses.

The newly formed PRISM initiative seeks to advocate, help facilitate and promote small-, minority- and women-owned businesses, said Mike Miller, Chamber president.

“It’s been our objective for years here at the Chamber, but it’s time for us, and the need, to accelerate this sector in what we do,” he said.

Chamber community and minority enterprise director Les Echols said PRISM was not something that happened overnight. He said the initiative also will advocate for legislation, help minority businesses certify, connect small businesses with big businesses and create marketing opportunities for small businesses.

“It took a listening tour to small-, minority- and women-owned businesses,” Echols said. “We found out what we were doing wrong and what we can do better on. PRISM will help add a renewed focus to the division.”
Florence City Councilwoman Octavia Williams-Blake said inclusion and diversity is not something that just happens in a business.

“Businesses must incorporate diversity intiatives as part of their business plan,” Williams-Blake said. “If we are going to attract large and small businesses to our community, we each need to partner with our Chamber. PRISM in many ways is not just a Chamber initiative but a community initiative.”

Tony James, president and CEO of Global Trusted Partners LLC, said as a veteran and minority-business owner, he hopes PRISM will open doors and help get contacts.

“I feel like inclusion is very important,” James said. “It’s about more than just minority and small business.”
Doris Lockhart, a black female owner of Accustaff, said she hopes the PRISM intiative opens up opportunities for business, but ultimately it’s up to the business.

“It’s one thing to hire minorities and saying you’re diverse,” she said. “It’s another thing to support minority businesses.”
She said one of her biggest challenges is being categorized as a small business even though she is a franchise with support from the second-largest staffing company in the world.

“If the Chamber can encourage the bigger businesses to seek out minority businesses they are in need of and make an extra effort, it would really be a plus for the city,” Lockhart said.

During his remarks, Robby Hill, city councilman and CEO and founder of HillSouth, said the Small Business Association statistics show that 55 percent of all businesses owned in South Carolina are owned by males, with 27 percent owned by women and 16 percent by minorities.

“Two out of four jobs in South Carolina are created by small companies,” Hill said, “This is where we need to focus our efforts. PRISM will help push those numbers in the right direction, and I applaud those efforts.”

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