The Succession of Black Business is in Community: Atlanta’s Jay Bailey

M. Todd Manuel Fort Wayne Ink Spot Contributing Writer

Just a week ago, many Fort Wayne residents and area leaders were taken by storm when Jay Bailey arrived in town. Not only was Bailey a joy to listen to, but his message left an atmosphere of optimism, encouragement, and hope for entrepreneurs in our community. Jay was this year’s guest speaker hosted by Northeast Indiana Innovation Center’s Ideas @ Work event. The yearly event commemorates Dr. Daryl R. Yost. Bailey is the president and CEO of Atlanta’s RICE Center: The Russell Innovation Center for Entrepreneurs, an all-black business center in Atlanta. It is one of few all-black business development centers and an organization that Bailey leads with extreme passion. A passion that seeps from his pores and is contagious.

When we sat down, I felt something magical about the engagement. Jay was clearly exhausted from the night before but still eager to let me in on his life’s mission and the RICE Center back home. As we began speaking, Jay taught me about the history of the RICE Center. He informed me of who the organization was founded by and the impact of H.J. Russell. Russell was one of the very few affluent blacks in the mid-1900s. When Blacks couldn’t share water fountains with their white counterparts, H.J. Russell made millions as a black man in Georgia’s business sectors. He single-handedly integrated both the Atlanta and the Georgia state chamber of commerce. At the height of the civil rights movement, college students from some of Atlanta’s historically black colleges became incarcerated for their protests. “It took just one phone call to H.J. Russell,” and everyone posted bail, said Bailey.

Jay spoke with excitement for change in the future. His philosophy is that all individuals will find success once they are placed in a cultivating environment. “It’s about tools, resources, access, and exposure,” explains Jay as he expands on how businesses within the center operate. “I want to change the course of the ‘fail or fly’ narrative,” says Jay. The failure or fly mentality is the belief that businesses will either fail or fly, so there is no need for support. Jay firmly believes that successful companies are successful because they are in thriving communities. By creating healthy and fertile environments, the RICE Center partners with more than 100 active and fully-participating businesses that receive and provide support from within the center. These businesses are committed to helping each other and remain open to guidance.

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