Gillum’s opponent, Republican Ron DeSantis, was also invited to participate, but never confirmed his attendance.
During a candid discussion, MDCC’s President G. Eric Knowles asked Gillum questions regarding issues that deeply affect South Florida’s black business community, which receives the least amount of contracts from the state government and other major corporations.
Topics ranged from small businesses and living wages to education, skills training and gentrification of Liberty City and other historically Black neighborhoods in Miami. Gillum said he had plans to remedy certain ills by being more inclusive, fighting for better wages and championing diversity.
“As much as I encourage a higher minimum wage, I gotta be honest with you, I don’t know a person who wants to earn a minimum. Everybody I know wants to earn as much as they can, as quick as they can, and be able to meet their obligations – and far too many of the folks in our community really do sit at that intersection of juggling between which bills they can pay before something gets cut off. In my opinion, this is not a race to develop more minimum wage jobs in this state … because the truth is we don’t have a jobs gap in this country, we have a skills gap,” Gillum said.
“My goal, the high standard, the high mark, would be that the diversity of this state ought to be the goal for what the buying and spending power diversity ought to be for this state’s $89 billion dollar budget. … We are the 17th largest economy in the world, the State of Florida, over a trillion dollars now, and when you look at that $200 billion dollars and where that money is being invested and who is managing it, you have a look and you tell me what you find. … That money comes from the people of the State of Florida, so it at least ought to represent the diversity of the state,” Gillum continued.
Knowles said the conversation was important to have because it is one of the ways to help fulfill the Chamber’s mission to create opportunities for economic and social transformation by giving members the chance to hear where candidates stand on issues that will impact them.
“This was an opportunity to address questions and concerns from the small business community within the African American diaspora. This is a very important race that will affect the future of small business in Florida, Miami-Dade County and the communities that the Chamber serves,” Knowles said.
Attendees expressed their reaction to Gillum’s responses to Knowles’ questions during the conversation.
“I feel very confident that Mayor Gillum will be able to provide more work opportunities for us here in Florida. … I actually read somewhere that he did sign an agreement that he is going to bring a certain amount of incentives to help out the entertainment industry so I’m excited about that because that’s the industry I’m in. Gillum I say is a man of his word. I actually went to college with him, and even back in the day, he was president of the Student Government Association and always involved in public service so he’s trustworthy, credible and I know he’s going to get the job done because he’s always stayed true to who he truly is,” said Tiffany Pittman, founder of Smile Back Girl Productions.
Broadway Harewood, a local entrepreneur known for his array of businesses on Liberty City’s 18th Avenue, echoed Pittman’s sentiments.
“Eric really brought it home because he touched on the questions that most people want to know, ‘What do you plan on doing for the businesses?’ And he (Gillum) spoke very elegantly about what he would be doing and I have a true, good feeling that he’s going to do what he’s supposed to do. You know how sometimes you get that feeling that somebody’s joshing you? … I believe that Gillum will be doing the right thing and I’m so happy and privileged to be a member of the chamber,” Harewood said.
To learn more about MDCC, call 305-751-8648 or visit www.m-dcc.org.
***PLEASE NOTE: The Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce does not endorse any political candidate. The Chamber only provides a platform for information to be shared with members.