BELDEN, Miss. (WTVA) -- A large group of minority business owners met Wednesday at the Belden campus of Itawamba Community College to discuss ways to get a bigger piece of the economic pie in North Mississippi.
The Minority Power, Unity and Leadership Alliance is dedicated to helping minority businesses reach that goal.
It's made up of business owners and prospective entrepreneurs from 17 counties in North Mississippi and Alabama seeking more knowledge of how to best grow their businesses during tough economic times.
There were tough questions for one local banker who was a guest speaker at the meeting.
Minority business owners say they've had to weather the storm the last few years like everyone else by sticking together and keeping a close eye on their financial situations.
That's why they say it's important to be a member of an organization like the Minority PUL Alliance.
"It's still difficult, and it's just because minority business owners, they're just not aware of what's going on," said Teresa Baker, a spokesperson for the alliance. "They don't know who to go to to point them in that direction that they need to go in."
But the Minority PUL Alliance is helping to solve that by providing a mentorship program for local business owners who are learning more from other owners.
The program is apparently working through the help of a consortium of colleges and universities in the state.
"I have found that some of the problem is we don't have communications with one another to come together to form our businesses and acknowledge our businesses," said Tory Hayes, a Hickory Flat contractor.
"I've gained a lot of new friends.There's a lot of networking going on. The PUL Alliance always presents wonderful learning programs," replied Linda Malone, a Birmingham-based entrepreneur.
"The group needs to now rely on the folks that have been mentees the last time now to be mentors of another group to bring young people in," said Bruce Hanson, an East Mississippi Community College workforce services director. "There's a lot of gray hair in the room."
To address that, the group invited several students from Rust College in Holly Springs to attend.
"We attended the meeting today because we wanted to get an understanding on how minorities can become successful business owners, entrepreneurs by themselves," said Terrell Watson, a graduating senior in attendance.
Not an easy task, say officials, but there was plenty of evidence in this meeting that it can be done.
The Mississippi Corridor Consortium helped sponsor the event, which consists of
four community colleges: Itawamba, Northwest, East Mississippi and Northeast.