Q&A: The Urban Chamber of Commerce
Jerrie Merritt, vice president of the Urban Chamber of Commerce, is a busy lady.
Besides her chamber duties, she works as senior vice president and community development manager for Bank of Nevada. She has earned a Woman of Distinction award from the Las Vegas chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners and was featured in the inaugural edition of Who’s Who in Black Las Vegas.
Merritt recently sat down with VEGAS INC to discuss how the Urban Chamber helps businesses and the community in Southern Nevada.
What does the Urban Chamber of Commerce do?
The chamber advocates for the creation, growth and general welfare of African-American businesses in the Las Vegas community. Our focus areas include development, education, tourism and special projects.
How does a local business become part of the chamber?
Businesses can join online at www.urbanchamber.org or they can visit our office on Stella Lake Street.
How many members do you have?
What upcoming events is the chamber hosting?
We just finished our 2012 Urban Business Block Party in conjunction with McDonalds & KCEP. Our scholarship luncheon will be held June 22. In addition, our second Microsoft Workshop will be held June 28. It is free and focuses on finding and managing customers.
What is the importance of the chamber’s scholarship program?
The Hannah Brown Community Development Corporation is the 501(c)(3) arm of the chamber that works closely with members and corporate partners to raise funds to donate scholarships to deserving students in our community. The website is www.hannahbrowncdc.org.
What is the chamber’s new Business Development Center?
We have below-market office space, conference and training room facilities and mentors on site to provide free counseling to anyone who is interested in being successful. There are seasoned professionals who are willing to provide guidance at no additional charge. This makes entrepreneurship available to anyone.
What would African-American-owned businesses benefit from the most in Las Vegas?
Having strong access to capital. Also, the ability to have contracting opportunities with local and federal governments. It has been reported that contracting with African-American- and Hispanic-owned businesses declined in 2011 for the first time in a decade.
What needs to change to help fix Southern Nevada’s economy?
I think the Southern Nevada economy is on the mend. Economic development is the key. We must continue to work together as a community in order to move the process forward.
What do you look forward to the most about living and working in Las Vegas?
Las Vegas is a great city to live in. It is still a small town. I enjoy the ability to be able to work and live in a community where I can make a difference in the lives of others. On any given day, I can volunteer with numerous nonprofits or be a mentor to a young person in the School District.
What has been your proudest moment with the chamber?
I was a member of the board of directors that formed the partnership with the city of Las Vegas to secure the agreement for the Business Development Center.