By Kevin Ashley and Suzanne McBride
An Austin business group is partnering this month with a private downtown club, with the goal of helping West Side business owners find new customers.
Every Wednesday in February, the Mid-America Club will be spotlighting a business leader from Chicago’s West or South Side. Malcolm Crawford, executive director of the Austin African American Business Networking Association, will be speaking Feb. 9th at the club, located on the 80th floor of the Aon Center at 200 E. Randolph St.
Crawford said he plans to shine a spotlight on Chicago Avenue’s Soul City Corridor. “I think awareness is always important,” he said.
The Soul City Corridor is an economic revitalization zone that stretches along Chicago Avenue, from Cicero Avenue west to Austin Boulevard. The zone is intended to serve as a cultural benchmark similar to Chinatown or Greektown, where residents and visitors may experience the music and food unique to Austin’s African American population, according to AAABNA.
West Side businessman Marseil Jackson said the Mid-America Club is not as diverse as it should be, which is why a speaker series like this is needed.
“The goal is to support African American businesses and also shine a light on Soul City,” Jackson said at AAABNA’s January meeting.
Why not bring club members to Austin? “To be honest, most of those people wouldn’t come to Soul City, so we’re going to them,” Jackson said. “We’re making sure Soul City’s name rings loud across the city.”
Jackson, a consultant and entrepreneur who operates the Dream Center, in the 5927 W. Chicago Ave., said this month’s partnership with the Mid-America Club is not a one-off. “This will be continual … this is long term.”
Crawford, who runs the Sankofa Cultural Arts & Business Center, 5820 W. Chicago Ave., said this week’s event came about because one of AAABNA’s members also belongs to the Mid-America Club. He’s hopeful his talk on Wednesday will bring more attention to the business opportunities in Austin.
“I think the awareness will lead to them spreading the word about what’s happening on Chicago Avenue,” he said, adding he hopes it will lead to more investment in the businesses located along the Soul City Corridor.
Crawford emphasized he isn’t focused on just this new partnership.
“Stay tuned because there is more to come. It’s Mid-America Club today; it is New Orleans tomorrow. It is wherever people need to be to find out about Soul City.”