San Antonio – Christopher Herring becomes the first African American selected to chair the City of San Antonio’s Small Business Advocacy Committee, elected during February 2018 meeting.
Herring was appointed to serve in 2011 under Mayor Julian Castro to the board. As a business owner of New Horizons School, Herring realized his business success depended upon “my faith that God is my company’s provider, my actions to be involved and create solutions for our city, and the cooperation of others to understand what changes are necessary.” Through a six to seven year journey, and gaining the confidence of three mayors, Christopher Herring is still navigating the bureaucracy of the city government and the politics of elected leaders.
At the end of the last Mayor’s race, Herring was prepared to be replaced as newly elected leaders have their own choices to fill various boards and commission seats. Herring met with Mayor Nirenberg’s team – namely his chief of staff, and was asked if he wanted to continue. “In light of the disparity that continues to exist for Black businesses, I said I would love to continue.”
The City of San Antonio's Assistant Director of the Economic Development Department, Michael Sindon says, “Christopher Herring’s knowledge of the City’s SBEDA program and passion to advocate for local small, minority, and women-owned businesses will serve him well as the newly appointed Chair of the Small Business Advocacy Committee. During his tenure on the Committee over the past few years, the City’s utilization of local, small, minority, and women-owned businesses has increased greatly and I expect these results to improve even more in the coming years.”
The challenges for African-Americans to do business with the City of San Antonio in 2011, when Herring was appointed, was very bleak. In that year, African-Americans in construction earned zero dollars in the largest spend area of our city – Construction. “The evidence of the city having paid zero dollars to Black construction firms propelled a city wide movement. Out of this disparity I joined the SBAC, and sat with Mark Outing, who was then the District 2 Appointee to the SBAC. For the first time, I believe we had two African-Americans on the committee of 11 members.” It was also in 2011, the community organized the group of minority chambers and trade organizations and formed what is now called the Fair Contractor Coalition. Herring recalls, “at that time I also served as the president of the Alamo City Black Chamber of Commerce, and quickly learned from TC Calvert, who led the FCC, how to combat a narrative that larger white general contractors often used to say – “African American companies lacked the capacity to perform.” “My level of involvement and speaking truth to power often times was too much for corporate backers of the Black chamber… the FCC’s voice was not funded by corporations or public agencies, so the movement was much more flexible to combat the narrative being heard. The work to prove the haters wrong, has been a series of meetings with business owners from 2011 to 2018.”
In 2014, Herring was elected to chair and lead the Texas Association of African American Chambers of Commerce which reports more than 250,000 Black businesses within Texas. The chamber has 23 local chambers to include the Alamo City Black Chamber on the board. Herring says, “I was blessed to be elected to lead the Texas African American Chamber of Commerce as Chairman. In that environment, past Board Chairman, Jim Wyatt served as my example, he was a former city councilman in Victoria, and business owner. Mr. Charles O’Neal, who serves as TAAACC’s President is one of the top leaders in the country and expert on Black business. He was the Executive Director of the Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce and has worked city, state and national issues that are important to dispel the fake news, lies, and the business stereotypes about Black businesses.” Herring is finishing his fourth year serving TAAACC as Board Chair, and his new role with the City of San Antonio will allow his perspectives to continue to help small, minority and women business owners.