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January 18, 2023

On Tuesday, Jan. 17, the Carolina African American Heritage Foundation (CAAHF) along with the Myrtle Beach Downtown Alliance hosted an Economic Development Summit at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center. The event was free and open to the public.

More than 100 people attended for the opportunity to learn from and network with business owners and economic leaders from across the region and state.

The keynote speaker was Michael Allen, CEO and Architect for the South Carolina-based firm MOA Architecture Inc. Allen has more than 21 years of experience in architectural design, business development and project management, including success with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and Green Globe Sustainability projects. 

His firm has been responsible for several notable structures such as WonderWorks at Broadway at the Beach, the South Carolina Duke Energy Innovation Center in Clemson, and Coastal Carolina University’s Springs Brooks Baseball Stadium and Charles Wade-John Lott Field both.

Allen shared insights about his path to becoming a successful business owner and the challenges he  faced along such as receiving bank loans. He noted that a disproportionate number of African Americans are business owners, and an even smaller amount are architects. However, he said, through his experiences, he has found resolve to pursue success and purpose in serving others through sharing his wisdom and using architectural design to create inclusive spaces.

Among the advice he shared, Allen said it’s important for aspiring business owners to be able to accept criticism and feedback, visit and research competitors, partner with like products or service providers, and take pride in your service or products.

He further noted that it’s critical for consumers to support African American business owners by seeking out their goods or services, giving them a second chance to improve, and providing recommendations or spreading the word about their business.

Allen said these efforts help to honor the dream of Dr. King who advocated for the poor and economic justice in America. In August 1967, during his final speech at Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Dr. King said, “And one day we must ask the question, ‘Why are there forty million poor people in America?’ And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising questions about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth.”

Adding to the knowledge shared at the summit, a panel of regional entrepreneurs discussed topics such as community collaboration and how to build a better business ecosystem through small business owners, nonprofit organizations, investors and more.

The Economic Development Summit was part of Myrtle Beach’s Grand Strand Freedom Week, an annual celebration marking the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and hosted by CAAHF, the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce and the City of Myrtle Beach.  Additional events held during the week included the annual MLK Parade, the Mental Health Forum, the CommUNITY Ecumenical Service at Mt. Olive AME Church in Myrtle Beach and the Drum Major Awards Breakfast.

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