14:38 PM

African American Chamber of Commerce of NJ Helps Employers Achieve Business Goals



The respected voice for Black-owned businesses also proves to be a powerful partner for any company looking to do well by doing right. Learn how.

New Jersey has more than 80,000 Black-owned businesses. And there is one organization that exclusively strives to empower them all.

For the past 13 years, the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey (AACCNJ) has worked to promote and increase opportunities for Black businesses and citizens across the state.

But, the AACCNJ quickly realized that there was another role for them: helping non-Black owned companies recognize the benefits of a meaningful partnership with the Trenton-based Chamber and its members.

From collaborating on public policy issues, to tapping into the AACCNJ’s deep insights on diversity and inclusion initiatives, to forging relationships with minority-owned suppliers who can deliver the best goods and services at the best price, the Chamber is filling a unique – and increasingly critical – role for New Jersey companies big and small.

These efforts have taken on even more importance recently, in light of the disproportionate impact that the COVID-19 pandemic is having on people of color, and the recognition that every business has a role to play in confronting and ending systemic racism and social injustice.

As Founder, President & CEO of AACCNJ, John Harmon has emphasized that the Chamber’s partnerships are successful because he and his 10-person staff understand and focus on the value they can deliver to the companies they assist.

“This is not about charity,” said Harmon. “This is about partnering so that each of our organizations can meet its business goals and objectives. With our business partners, we’re executing together, for the benefit of all.”

As the only statewide Chamber of Commerce that exclusively represents the interests of Black businesses and citizens, the AACCNJ fills an important role in one of the nation’s most diverse states. When Black-owned businesses prosper, it provides a significant lift not only to the communities they serve, but to the local, regional, and state economy.

“Since African American consumers and businesses are often overlooked or marginalized, we are a mechanism to address these economic disparities,” Harmon explained. “Our team at AACCNJ works with business partners to navigate those systemic barriers to try and bring more Blacks into the mainstream of New Jersey.”

As the Chamber has evolved and grown over the past decade, so, too, have its programs and services. One is in the area of employment training. As an Eligible Training Provider for the New Jersey Department of Labor & Workforce Development, the AACCNJ works with businesses to create customized worker training programs designed to fit their particular workforce needs.

“We will work with you to find and train workers who can compete for job opportunities on a level playing field,” Harmon added. “It’s a pathway for mutual success.”

Partnering to advance diversity

Another way in which the AACCNJ helps New Jersey businesses address economic disparity is through its supplier diversity services. By being a source of credible information on minority-owned businesses, the Chamber helps companies effectively reach its supplier diversity goals.

Harmon points to Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey (Horizon BCBSNJ) as one company that has seen the benefit of the Chamber’s help. As a long-standing partner of the Chamber, Horizon BCBSNJ has partnered with AACNJ on a range of programs, including scaling up its supplier diversity program. Since this alliance started, Horizon BCBSNJ has increased the share of its total spend with diverse suppliers from the single digits to 12% in 2018, rising again to 14% in 2019.

“That’s a very high growth rate and we couldn’t have done it without the Chamber,” said Frank Melaccio, Vice President & Treasurer at Horizon BCBSNJ. “When John puts his stamp of approval on a business, it gives them credibility. We’ve never been disappointed by a business they recommend.”

Harmon has seen countless Black-owned businesses benefit from having the opportunity to compete for contracts with fellow New Jersey corporations. But, the companies that use these diverse suppliers also reap benefits: “I firmly believe that when businesses get different perspectives involved, they achieve a better outcome from diversity.”

He also values AACCNJ’s strong partnership with Horizon BCBSNJ and numerous other New Jersey companies, and believes that every business can realize similar successes by reaching out to the Chamber.

“What I’m hoping is that more companies will partner with us,” Harmon said, noting that several CEOs have reached out to him for advice and aid as racial issues continue to receive increased attention. “Businesses should seize this moment and take a page from those that already have. Working with us presents a unique opportunity to succeed and do well by doing right.”

For more information about the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey, visit https://www.aaccnj.com or call (609) 571-1620.