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Gibson Channels Passion for Reducing Poverty in New Chamber Role

The following is a feature in the Memphis Crossroads Magazine. Click here to view the issue in its entirety.


As the son of U.S. Air Force veterans, Andre Gibson doesn’t identify with one particular “hometown.” He was born in Little Rock and ultimately spent 10 years in his mother’s home state of South Carolina where he attended high school.
 
Gibson put down roots in his father’s home city of Memphis 11 years ago. In that time, he has put his personal and professional passions to work making Memphis a better community.
 
In August, Gibson was hired as the Greater Memphis Chamber’s member services coordinator, a position that made him the primary connection for members. In February he was promoted to project manager of economic development where he will lead the Chamber’s efforts to increase minority and women-owned business receipts in Memphis through the organization’s role in the Supplier Diversity Collaboration.
 
“I wanted to see the other side of what the Chamber does,” Gibson said about the position change. “In membership you deal with member companies and networking to meet amazing people doing amazing things in Memphis. On the Economic Development side you get to be part of the job growth. And with my interest in reducing poverty, if I can be part of bringing jobs to Memphis, I’m right on the nose.”
 
For his first eight years in Memphis, Gibson worked at Buckman as a quality auditor. During that time, he was deeply involved in the community volunteering for various organizations, from serving as chair of the Memphis City Beautiful Commission to serving on the boards of MPACT Memphis and Memphis Urban League Young Professionals.
 
That helped lead to a role in the nonprofit world at Little Rock-based Heifer International where he worked in community engagement until taking the position at the Chamber last summer.
 
Since February 2012, Gibson has served on the Memphis Area Transit Authority Board of Commissioners, an organization that governs the largest public transit system in Tennessee.
Gibson’s passion for transit also has taken him to the national American Public Transit Association where he serves as a regional representative.
 
Gibson’s involvement in public transit points back to a mix of his personal interests and background that includes wanting to do something about reversing the poverty-stricken communities he saw in South Carolina. An interest in sustainability led him to the City Beautiful Commission. And working at Heifer International helped sharpen a passion toward addressing poverty.
 
“It’s interesting that transportation came up for me because it’s a unique intersection of sustainability and addressing poverty through access,” he said. “It united some interests of mine and I’m able to dive into it.”
 
In his new position at the Chamber, Gibson’s primary focus is on increasing access for minority and women-owned businesses. The strategy will stimulate business with locally-owned small minority- and women-owned businesses and will address the low percentage of receipts those businesses receive in Shelby County. The Chamber estimates that African-American businesses receive 0.84 percent and women businesses receive 2.8 percent.
 
The goal this year is to increase the number of certified Minority and Women-Owned Businesses by 10 percent. The tools to help connect the business community include a business mentorship program and an online portal with a bid notification process. Read more about the supplier diversity plan here.
 
Reverend Keith Norman of First Baptist Broad Church is heading up the effort’s business to church program. That work will seek ways the city’s large faith-based population can utilize the minority- and women-owned business community.
 
“When you look at the role of a chamber of commerce in any city this is a monumental thing that they’ve stepped out so big on,” Norman said. “They recognized the economic impact this can have on changing poverty and impacting crime. By building this strong network and increasing its reach it touches the lives and distribution of wealth to touch all citizens of the community. They got the right person to lead it and that’s Andre.”
 
Like his passions to reduce poverty and improve the city’s public transportation, Gibson said he knows this is a vital economic development tool to move the Memphis forward.
 
“Look at recent discussions talking about companies that want to move to Memphis,” he said. “They want to do business with women- or minority-owned businesses. They’re having trouble making connections or they just believe that the infrastructure doesn’t exist and there aren’t any black businesses that can take care of your accounting or legal needs. We want to build the tools to cut out the noise in that realm and make the right connections and help smaller businesses.”

Story by: Lance Wiedower
Photo by: Troy Glasgow


Posted: 8/9/2016 11:27:10 AM | with 0 comments
Filed under: &, Andre, Businesses, Chamber, Development, Economic, Gibson, Greater, Memphis, Minority, Owned, Poverty, Transportation, Women



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THE M BLOG
The latest news from the Greater Memphis Chamber. For more information, contact Director of Communications Christina Meek at (901) 543-3504 (cmeek@memphischamber.com) or Communications Specialist Jenny C. Fish at (901) 543-3558 (jfish@memphischamber.com).

 

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