Driving Equitable Economic Impact
In June 2020, Kent County announced the Kent County Small Business Recovery Program. The program worked to quickly and efficiently distribute short-term financial support to businesses in Kent County dealing with additional barriers such as language, general business knowledge, and those from underserved communities. The county chose to partner with the Grand Rapids Chamber to administer the program.
Our work with this program provided significant primary research on the state of small business in our region. It also illuminated gaps that, if left unserved, would drastically reduce the ability of minority-owned businesses to survive the pandemic and resulting economic downturn.
Today, we introduced the Grand Rapids Chamber Minority Business Councils and Business Liaisons. Through these expanded resources, we will partner with community centers of influence to deliver programming to minority business communities in underserved areas and offer consult through the perspective of shared lived experiences.
Meet the Council Chairs
James Byl, Black Business Council
James is the founder and owner of Multi-Automatic Tool & Supply Co., a wholesale distributor supplying metalworking tools and fixture components primarily to automotive and heavy equipment manufacturers in the U.S. He established the company in 1996 and now has over 25 years of experience providing tooling and service to the metalworking industry. James also purchased Belding Tool & Machine in 2019. He participated in the Grand Rapids Chamber’s Minority Business Roundtable Group for four years and developed a passion for the overall success and growth of businesses in the Grand Rapids area, as well as wanting to see the success of more minority-owned businesses in the community. James currently serves on the board of directors of the Grand Rapids Chamber, and he provides support and volunteers with numerous faith-based organizations.
Floriza Genautis, Asian American Business Council
Floriza Genautis is the principal and founder of Management Business Solutions, a certified Micro Local Business Enterprise (Micro-LBE), Women Business Enterprise (WBE) and Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) company. She has over 30 years of specialization in the professional staffing industry including over 25 of experience in the accounting, finance and human resources, education, manufacturing, and service industries. Prior to calling Grand Rapids home, Floriza recruited for Silicon Valley companies such as Hewlett Packard, Hitachi Data Systems, Network Associates, McAfee, and Nike.
Ruben Ramos, Latinx Business Council
Ruben Ramos, Managing Partner at R&R Mechanical Services, is a 12-year veteran of the Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) industry and has guided his business to continued and sustainable growth since it opened in 2008. The start-up company has evolved from a two-man operation serving residential customers to a team of more than 20 employees serving both residential and commercial clientele. Ruben attributes a large part of R&R Mechanical’s success to the good synergy he has created with his business partner and twin brother, Rolando Ramos.
Meet the Business Liaisons
Yadira Garza-Malone, Latinx Business Liaison
Yadira migrated from Mexico at the age of three and has been a West Michigan resident ever since. She moved to Grand Rapids after she married in 2012 and has been passionate about serving her community through her professional work and volunteering. Prior to joining the Chamber in 2018, Yadira worked in the financial industry for seven years helping businesses manage their finances and build solid financial footing. Her desire to create community impact led her to sit on the board of Treetops Collective, where she serves as board secretary. She is passionate about and dedicated to underserved communities, connecting them to resources that will help grow their businesses.
Nate Phillips, Black Business Liaison
Nate has been a resident of Grand Rapids for 12 years, coming from South Bend, Indiana. While being plugged into many groups around the city, Nate has been able to form relationships with city residents, community stakeholders, and elected officials through his professional work and volunteerism. Nate has been with the Chamber for over a year and serves as a Membership Engagement Manager for the team. Serving on the Mayor’s Next Generation Advisor Board, and recently appointed to the City of Grand Rapids Housing Appeals Board, he is looking to be an advocate to those trying to become better connected at the government level within our city and county. He finds great joy in serving as a resource and community connector to create a vibrant and inclusive city.