Hank Johnson visits Lithonia business awarded federal grant

Hank Johnson, the U.S. Representative for Georgia’s 4th Congressional District, visited Lithonia Feb. 24 to meet with local entrepreneurs who own and operate Pride Road, a family-owned farm, manufacturing, and distribution center that produces hibiscus-based products.

Pride Road staff said their hibiscus begins from seeds collected from the previous season’s harvest. These seeds are grown into transplants and planted at local Georgia farms, including Pride Road’s farm located east of Conyers.

Johnson’s staff said the visit was held so that Johnson could meet with successful local business owners to gauge needs and because Pride Road recently won a USDA Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) that helps agricultural producers enter into value-added activities related to the processing and marketing of new products.

Pride Road owner/operator Najeeb Muhaimin said he and his staff plan to use the grant to grow Pride Road’s client base.

Johnson’s staff said the meeting was to gauge the needs of a local business and coincided with Black History Month, as Pride Road is Black owned. Owner Najeeb Muhaimin said he wants to expand.

“We’re trying to get to the rest of Atlanta,” said Muhaimin. “This grant is an opportunity for us to start getting more capacity. That’s one of the issues that is faced by small businesses. Everyone wants to get into this stuff on their own, but you can’t just get into something like this if you don’t have deep pockets and don’t have the space to hold all of your products.”

Johnson said he wanted to know what could be done to help facilitate the work Pride Road is doing, citing local business aid and historic discrimination toward Black farmers as two of the reasons for his interest.

“Black farmers have traditionally been discriminated against and excluded from being able to participate fully in the marketplace,” said Johnson. “Those times have changed. The Biden Administration is reaching out to bring forth qualified farms and farmers, and companies that deal with those farmers, to open up the market to our Black farmers. Pride Road LLC is a prime example of that.”

Johnson’s staff said the push to meet with Black business owners also coincides with Black History Month.

Johnson tried several products from Pride Road during his visit.

“It’s important that every sector of our community gets a fair chance to compete in the marketplace. All [Black farmers] need is a fair chance to compete and that’s what this grant will help facilitate. That’s what companies like Pride Road do,” added Johnson.

According to Johnson, Pride Road working with local officials and communicating its need to Johnson and others helped Pride Road obtain the grant and shows that private-public partnerships can work for both sides.

“I’m looking forward to seeing what I can do to help their work,” said Johnson. “The private-public parentship model is one that can work fairly for all.”

Muhaimin said securing grants such as the VAPG is what his business needs, so it can market to a larger audience, hold more inventory, and grow its distribution. He also encouraged Johnson and other officials to visit Lithonia’s other Main Street businesses.

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