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Alabama State Black Chamber of Commerce holds conference in Birmingham

The Alabama State Black Chamber of Commerce recently held its 2023 Entrepreneurs and Innovators Conference in Birmingham. The two-day event featured four primary topics — Bridging Art and Agriculture, Social Enterprise and the Power of Community, Community Power and Environmental Justice, and The Power of Credit — along with numerous breakout sessions ranging from cybersecurity for small businesses, to starting a successful podcast, to writing proposals that win government contracts.

ASBCC president and CEO Jerry Mitchell speaks to an attendee at the Entrepreneurs and Innovators Conference in Birmingham (Meg McKinney)

“Our ultimate purpose is connecting people and sharing ideas they can take away and apply in their own lives and businesses,” said Jerry Mitchell, ASBCC president and CEO. “The theme of this conference is, ‘Don’t play the game, create the game.’ That means our objective is to educate and spark actions that change the dynamics of how Black businesses and individuals compete and succeed.”

That objective factored into the choice of location for the conference: the Tuxedo Ballroom in Birmingham’s historic Ensley neighborhood. Once anchored by the Ensley Works, a steelmaking facility that employed nearly 15,000 local residents, the area began a long decline with the shutdown of the steel industry in the 1970s. In recent years, with renewed private investment and implementation of a long-term revitalization plan by the city, some renewal is underway. According to Mitchell, that made the neighborhood an attractive spot for the ASBCC conference.

“Ensley has a different kind of feel,” Mitchell said. “It sends a message about what can happen when you start pulling people together who want to be part of making positive change happen.”

Alabama Power was a sponsor of the ASBCC conference, and a panel discussion, titled “Powering a Better Alabama,” featured four representatives of the company. Hasin Gandhakwala, manager of electric transportation, provided an overview of Alabama Power’s support for electric vehicles, including special rates, rebates and other incentives for personal and business EVs. Contracts agent Courtney Miller offered insights for vendors seeking contracts with Alabama Power, highlighting the company’s focus on increasing dollars spent with small, female-owned and Black-owned businesses. Marsha Morgan, project manager for the Alabama Power Foundation, talked about how the foundation promotes economic empowerment through grants that build skills and strengthen Alabama’s workforce.

Moderator Darlena Battle during the Alabama Power panel discussion, with (left) Hasin Gandhakwala, Courtney Miller and Marsha Morgan. (Meg McKinney)

Corporate relations specialist Darlena Battle moderated the panel. Afterwards, Battle spoke about the importance of Alabama Power’s support of the ASBCC.

“We place a high value on the relationship with the Alabama State Black Chamber of Commerce and all of its members,” Battle said. “The organization is important to the entire community, but specifically to small, Black-owned businesses in Alabama. The conference exposes attendees to valuable resources to which they otherwise may not have access, and Alabama Power is pleased to contribute to that impact.”

The ASBCC is part of a network that includes the Birmingham Metro Black Chamber of Commerce, the East Alabama Black Chamber of Commerce, the Huntsville Metro Black Chamber of Commerce, the Mobile Area Black Chamber of Commerce, the Northeast Alabama Black Chamber of Commerce, the River Region Black Chamber of Commerce and the Tuscaloosa Area Black Chamber of Commerce. Collectively, these organizations reach about 50 of Alabama’s 67 counties.

Learn more about the Alabama State Black Chamber of Commerce at