Duke Energy Convention Center. Photo by John Alexander Reese

Eric H. Kearney

President & CEO, Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky African American Chamber of Commerce

It’s a uniquely exciting time for minority and small businesses in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky. Cincinnati’s leaders urgently need to seize this opportunity!

There are three transformative projects of note happening in our region – the building of a new companion bridge crossing the Ohio River to enhance travel; the development of the new Cincinnati Convention District which will include an expansion of the Duke Energy Convention Center as well as a convention hotel; and farther north, but no less important, the Intel semiconductor fab in Licking County, Ohio. Taken as a whole, these are critical to the economic stability and success of our community.

These three projects— all generational opportunities to improve our community— represent $22.5 billion in investment: the bridge project is budgeted at nearly $2 billion; the renovation of the Duke Energy Convention Center and a new headquarter hotel will cost close to $500 million; and the Intel fabs are a $20 billion investment.

It is time for our public and private leadership to publicly commit that fair opportunities will be in place for small, minority-owned, women-owned, veteran-owned, and disadvantaged businesses. It is time for the leaders of these three projects, which will include federal, state and local funds, to commit to including small, minority-owned, women-owned, veteran-owned, and disadvantaged businesses at the planning table.

To do so, the Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky African American Chamber of Commerce (AACC) is here to help. But it’s not only the AACC. The AACC in combination with the Urban League of Southwestern Ohio (UL), GCMI, MORTAR, Lightship Capital, and the Minority Business Accelerator have formed Lincoln & Gilbert. We can help shape these transformative projects so that they optimize opportunities for these businesses.

Lincoln & Gilbert combines each organization’s expertise ranging from procurement support, subject matter experts, marketing assistance, technical assistance, and investment in order to increase the likelihood of an MBE’s success and sustainability. Lincoln & Gilbert was activated through an investment from the City of Cincinnati of $2.5 million. Hopefully, the private sector will provide additional funding so this powerful initiative can continue to help even more businesses. In fact, Lincoln & Gilbert just days ago provided over $280,000 in grants for businesses

Black businesses are major contributors to the economic success of our region. The University of Cincinnati Economics Center collected and analyzed data and concluded that Black businesses have an economic output of $1.4 billion and pay over $13.9 million in sales and income tax. The AACC will engage the UC Economics Center to do a follow-on study so the community can measure progress. These businesses are in a variety of industries and have a plethora of capabilities.

We fervently look forward to working with the City of Cincinnati, Hamilton County, 3CDC, Visit Cincy, Jobs Ohio, Tri-ED, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, Governor Andy Beshear, Ohio Transportation Secretary Dr. Jack Marchbank, and Kentucky Transportation Secretary Jim Gray to increase the opportunities for MBEs and DBEs in the region. Our region’s businesses are ready to meet opportunity now!

Eric H. Kearney is President and CEO of the Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky African American Chamber of Commerce. He is the former Ohio Senate Minority Leader and the former chairman of the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

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