History & Impact

The Institute was founded in 1986 as the North Carolina Institute of Minority Economic Development with a grant from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation and N.C. Association of Minority Businesses to diversify North Carolina’s business base as a strategy for expanding economic opportunity.

Business, government and community leaders recognized then that globalization, changing demographics and technology was changing the game, replacing traditional industries and markets with new ones that required different skills and strategies for business success.

Engaging significant untapped segments of the population – racial minorities, women, people with disabilities, rural residents and others – became a business and economic imperative. The Institute would lead the way.

Today, nearly 30 years later, the Institute remains the only organization of its kind in the country focused on business and economic growth through effective business diversity. North Carolina's model of collaboration and its exceptional ecosystem are recognized as a model by other states and regions.

The Institute continues to work with small businesses, large multinational corporations, local governments and state leaders to open doors of opportunity and create an environment where businesses of all kinds grow and thrive.


Our Historic Building

The Institute's headquarters in downtown Durham, N.C. anchors the heart of what was once known as "Black Wall Street," home to some of the nation's largest minority-owned financial and related institutions.

Placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974 and later designated a National Historic Landmark, the building remains one of only a handful of landmarks owned by a minority organization.

The North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company built the neoclassical, revival-style structure at 116 West Parrish Street in the center of Durham's business district as the company's second home. The building was officially dedicated on Saturday, December 17, 1921 after its completion in October of that year. In 1922, Mechanics and Farmers Bank moved its headquarters to the first floor.

The Institute purchased the building in 1999 and in 2008 restored the building's facade – windows, frames, and balconies – with a $100,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and a $500,000 appropriation from the North Carolina General Assembly. A capital campaign is under way to continue renovations to restore the exterior entryway to its original condition and to upgrade interior spaces and infrastructure.

Today, the Institute shares this historic space and Parrish Street attraction with a Mechanics and Farmers Bank branch, located on the first floor, and with the North Carolina NAACP and other nonprofits and small businesses located on the floors above. Please see the resources below to learn more.



Historic Parrish Street, City of Durham

A Street with a Story: The History of Durham’s “Black Wall Street," 8th-grade classroom curriculum, NC Civic Education Consortium

National Register of Historic Places Inventory - Nomination Form, 1974

National Register of Historic Places Property Photograph Form, 1974

North Carolina Listing of National Historic Landmarks

Photos of Parrish Street Markers

“Kelly Bryant ‘Black Wall Street,’” video, Museum of Durham History, 2011.

Amos N. Jones, "The 'Old' Black Corporate Bar: Durham's Wall Street, 1898-1971," 92 N.C. L. Rev. 1831 (2014).

“Durham's ‘Black Wall Street,’” Duke Today, Jan. 25, 2007.

Walter B. Weare, Black Business in the New South: A social history of the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company, Duke University Press, Durham, NC: 1973, 1993.

William J. Kennedy, Jr., The North Carolina Mutual Story: A symbol of progress, 1898-1970, North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company, Durham, NC: 1970.

E. Franklin Frazier, "Durham: Capital of the Black Middle Class" in The New Negro by Alain Locke, New York: A. and C. Boni Company, 1925, p. 333-340.

R. McCants Andrews, John Merrick: A biographical sketch, Durham, NC: Press of the Seeman Printery, 1920.




"We can speak of high ideals, but the world listens more readily to the bottom line. The Institute's bottom line is jobs, expanded tax bases and a more vibrant marketplace through diversity." 

—Will Mann, Wells Fargo

ncimed building2

"The Institute is the perfect custodian of this National Historic Landmark as it has helped thousands of North Carolinians achieve their dream of business ownership."

— Martin Eakes, CEO, Self-Help