(WKBN) – The COVID-19 pandemic hit small businesses hard, especially ones owned by minorities. To create a discussion on how to help those businesses get back on their feet or even start from scratch, Ohio’s secretary of state met virtually with Valley leaders.
It was the seventh Ohio Minority Business Panel with Secretary of State Frank LaRose. This one focused on listening to the leaders in the Mahoning Valley.
“What this is all about is us being intentional about empowering that great minority community entrepreneurial spirit to connect with some of the resources that are out there,” LaRose said.
Youngstown Mayor Tito Brown also participated in Wednesday’s discussion, focusing on three main points to success.
“The health, the economy and education are all what play a key factor into making sure that our minority business owners and our most vulnerable population have the tools and equipment to do the job right,” Brown said.
Other representatives couldn’t join by video, but called in to show their support.
“I want to just make sure that the businesses that had to close because of the pandemic, they can actually reopen and continue to employ a lot of good people around here and have business grow,” said Representative Al Cutrona.
“We understand. We understand when you’re trying to make payroll and you have bills to pay and all of the things that you’re up against. I just want to be that kind of an office that you can reach out to for any problem you have. We want you to stay in business, we want you to grow your business,” said Senator Mike Rulli.
More importantly, the leaders on the front lines of Youngstown’s minority businesses joined to share their ideas.
“As we’re thinking about going forward, how can we reduce the stumbling, the structural stumbling blocks that inhibit minority businesses from gaining access and more importantly, opportunity?” said Microenterprise Disadvantage Business Advocate Vernard Richberg.
It’s discussions like this that they all agree are what will help protect small businesses and keep more people employed in the most successful way.
“Dream big, yes, it’s possible and there are resources out here but also make sure that you own what you have and that you can handle it if you have to on your own,” said Director of Women in Entrepreneurship Stephanie Gilchrist.