AABP Award 728x90

African American Business Association formed


An association that seeks to represent the African-American business community in Des Moines has become an affiliate of the Greater Des Moines Partnership.

More than a dozen black-owned businesses, in addition to those of the founding board members, were represented at an inaugural meeting of the African American Business Association held last week at the Partnership’s offices at Seventh and Locust streets.

“The name of the game is access, being able to represent your business to as wide a group of customers as possible,” said Lu Spaine, the AABA’s president and owner of Zumi, which sells clothing, accessories and other items imported from Africa, Asia and South America. “In addition, the Partnership is involved in planning the future of the Greater Des Moines area, and I think it’s important that African-Americans be involved in that,” she said.

Black-owned businesses bring “an incredible value to the entire Greater Des Moines region,” said Martha Willits, president and CEO of the Partnership. “The development of a partnership between the AABA and our organization will provide long-lasting benefits for everyone involved.”

Spaine said she had been involved with negotiations with the Partnership as a member of the Black Business Association, which had sought to become a Partnership affiliate before it disbanded earlier this year, and she felt it was important to continue that affiliation through a new organization.

The AABA is the second ethnic-oriented association to affiliate with the Partnership. In September, a newly formed group of Latino business leaders, Alianza, became a Partnership affiliate. Partnership officials have also approached the Iowa Asian Alliance about becoming an affiliate, which IAA’s executive director, Kim Poam, said is a possibility but not currently a priority for the organization.

The AABA’s affiliate status means that businesses that join automatically become Partnership members. Other organizations that have reciprocal membership agreements with the Partnership are the West Des Moines, East Des Moines and Clive chambers of commerce. In all, 20 groups are now affiliated with the Partnership.

The new ethnic affiliations represent an effort by the Partnership to make its membership more representative of the diversity within the community, said Mary Bontrager, the Partnership’s executive vice president.

“We as an organization need to continue looking at our organization base and see if we can foster development of other organizations that are representative of our cultural diversity, and look how we can build links to our organization,” she said. “That’s certainly an ongoing goal.”

The AABA will likely not have regular meetings, given time constraints of business owners, but rather focus on organizing events for its members. Initially, Spaine said, her organization plans to focus on providing educational events for business owners, and then expand from that base. The group has a mailing list of more than 100 black-owned businesses in Central Iowa that it plans to reach out to, she said.

Spaine said it’s likely the AABA will also become affiliated with one or more of the existing national black business associations. “We certainly intend to reach beyond Des Moines,” she said.

For more information on the AABA, contact Spaine at 554-8817.

visionbank web 070123 300x250