Carol Cain: Business leader realizes there’s strength in numbers and unites ethnic chambers of commerce

After hearing that Gov. Rick Snyder planned to include China in his first trade mission, Ahmad Chebbani knew a new day was ahead for international trade in Michigan.

Finally, a governor from Michigan was to visit the most populous country on the planet, which might help open doors between the state and China.

Chebbani, who runs the American Arab Chamber of Commerce, began thinking how his organization could take advantage of the more aggressive economic development stance under Snyder’s team.

Not only in China, but other countries in Asia, Latin America, Africa and elsewhere.

He also knew there was strength in numbers.

That’s when it dawned on him: Metro Detroit is a cultural melting pot with many strong ethnic organizations.

What if they were to pool their resources?

He came up with the Council of Ethnic Chambers of Commerce, which has taken off and will be unveiled Tuesday at an invitation-only event in Dearborn. Elected leaders, eight counsel generals of various embassies and representatives of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. will be on hand.

Chebbani, who is chairman of the new council, started talking to other organizations about joining in.

“Michigan is rich with diverse business groups and ethnic communities that have been key economic drivers,” said Chebbani. “The Council of Ethnic Chambers of Commerce aims to pool enormous economic resources to foster regional growth and cooperation and make significant contributions to the state’s economy.”

Each of the chambers will retain separate identities but work together through the council to promote each other and cooperate on various activities and hopefully have more impact.

The African Business Chamber of Commerce is among those signing up.

“Networking with the Ethnic Chamber of Commerce is an opportunity for business people of many American ethnic groups to collaborate for global opportunities,” said Lee Green, CEO of the African Business Chamber of Commerce-USA.

Other groups involved include: Detroit Chinese Business Association, Indo-American Chamber of Commerce USA, Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce, Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Taiwanese Chamber of Commerce of Greater Detroit, Philippine Chamber of Commerce-Michigan, African Caribbean Chamber of Commerce and Asian Pacific American Chamber of Commerce.

For information, contact the American Arab Chamber of Commerce at 313-945-1700.

Contact Carol Cain: 313-222-6732 or clcain@cbs.com. Cain hosts “Michigan Matters” at 11 a.m. Sundays on WWJ-TV CBS Detroit (Channel 62).

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