New campaign would boost Black-owned businesses in Savannah, mayor says

Local News

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Savannah’s mayor says a tax increase awaiting state approval would help fund an effort to support more Black-owned businesses in the Hostess City.

Mayor Van Johnson says with the help of hotel-motel tax revenue, the city could focus on diversifying the tourism industry through a new marketing strategy.

“There is definitely a market for Black tourism,” he said Tuesday. “Savannah is rich in history — I don’t think we really tapped into what that is yet.”

The city is shaped by the contributions of Black people. One soon-to-be business owner says the economic landscape should reflect that.

“There’s no reason why, when you walk down Broughton Street, you don’t see businesses that are representative of how Savannah actually looks right now,” said Elbi Em, who is soon opening Savannah’s only Black-owned coffee shop.

Visit Savannah would be at the helm of the marketing efforts. Their approach is a series of ad campaigns focusing on inclusion.

“With that comes opportunity for small businesses to either develop and open or grow from what they are today,” Visit Savannah President Joe Marinelli explained.

But Elm says efforts need to go beyond an ad campaign to target the root of inequities.

“If you’re talking about grants, then that’s how you start that conversation,” Elm said. “That’s how you close the wealth gap — that’s how you bring about a better community.”

It’s unclear whether the city plans to allocate any of the tax revenue to grant community programs.

Meanwhile, Johnson says coordinating those efforts would be easier with a permanent city manager. He says a new company is helping with the search, and they hope to fill the position by the summer.

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