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An event later this month will showcase and celebrate black-owned businesses and entrepreneurs in the Quad-Cities. 

The Q-C Empowerment Network, an African-American initiative that founded the event, is partnering with Exelon Generation, St. Ambrose University and Iowa American Water to host the fourth annual expo. From 1 to 5 p.m. Feb. 23, the public is invited to hear from local black-owned businesses and organizations at SouthPark Mall in Moline.

The Black Business Expo highlights black-owned businesses in the Quad-Cities to showcase the diversity of the area's small business community. More than 50 vendors participated last year.

The event will feature a keynote address from Willie Barney, founder and president of WDB Resultants, a national consulting firm specializing in strategic planning, communication, research and diversity and inclusion. 

With more than 28 years of experience, Barney is best known for his role as founder and president of the Empowerment Network. It's a collaborative of residents, leaders and organizations working to facilitate positive change in Omaha, Nebraska and other cities across the country. 

Launched in 2007, the Empowerment Network focuses on improving the economic condition and quality of life for African-Americans. In Omaha, the collaboration has worked to increase graduation rates, reduce gun violence, raise money for community revitalization, increase access to health care, support African-American centered arts and more. 

Before starting his own business and several non-profits, the St. Ambrose University graduate, Barney, worked as a leader in marketing, sales, training and research for Lee Enterprises and the Quad-City Times. 

First held in November 2015, the Black Business Expo was moved to February to celebrate Black History Month. The free expo will be held in front of the former Younkers store in SouthPark Mall, 4500 16th St., Moline. 

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