by Harry C. Alford & Kay DeBow, For New Pittsburgh Courier
The state of Black Business is challenging. The political environment, international challenges and malcontent is making “Peace in the Valley” an escaping concept. Black entrepreneurship began to evolve at a noticeable pace during the 1960’s. From a few seats on the local city councils to the Oval Office in the White House and practically all board rooms in between. When the Small Business Administration was formed Black business accounted for less than 0.2 percent of the federal procurement dollar. As we ended the fiscal year of 2019, Black procurement participation barely reaches 1.6 percent (per Federal Procurement Data Systems).
Still, we are so far from relevance. Now is the time and there can be no more hesitation. We respectfully request the President Donald Trump Administration to give this fact much focus and prepare to influence each cabinet member to get personally involved. Unemployment levels for all ethnicities has improved greatly. Now, it is time to shift the focus on business procurement that translates into job availability and improved wealth. We certainly hope that stability at the top management levels of this cabinet becomes a reality. The Small Business Administration is a good example. There has been no distinct Administrator to focus attention on small business development from each federal agency. We hope the SBA will settle down with consistent top-level management as well as other important Cabinet members such as Defense, VA and HUD to name a few.
The National Black Chamber of Commerce will monitor this federal activity and guide our local chapters to measure the activity at the state and local level. Complacency must not settle in and should be a focus at all levels. We can no longer have tolerance for poor performance. Incompetence must no longer be tolerated. Each election should be a major focus on what positive changes will happen in Black procurement dollars. We will set the example at the federal level and help guide our state and local chapters to do the same within their geographical areas.
A great example for all of us to emulate is the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey which is led by NBCC Board Member John Harmon. This winner of the Chamber of the Year 2020 is a shining example of what we have been preaching for over 25 years. Duplicate John and his staff’s path and success will come to your chamber https://www.aaccnj.com/meet-the-staff.html. Seek John’s counsel! He will be glad to share it.
The legalization of marijuana is going to have a major impact into our communities. An old friend of ours, Stanley Tucker, back in the 1980’s took a trip from Baltimore to North Carolina. While in Virginia he was pulled over for “Driving while Black.” The state troopers searched him and found a nickel bag ($5) of marijuana in his pocket. For that Stanley was convicted of interstate drug trafficking and spent the next three years in a Virginia state prison. So, damaging and such a waste that was disproportionately rendered onto our Black communities.
America is now waking up and our penal system will no longer be used as a mechanism to suppress certain census areas. Governors are starting to remove such harsh sentences and we must promote our Project Rebound which will encourage job training for ex-offenders and placement into jobs, entrepreneurship and viable economic stability. Our human capital must be addressed and improved.
At the same time, we must encourage our entrepreneurs to consider getting into the new, thriving Cannabis business. Illinois is a prime example with dozens of new licenses for dispensaries being approved. Governor Pritzker gave pardons to over 11,000 offenders (most of whom were minorities). It is a new day and we are looking toward NBCC Chairman Larry Ivory to provide us guidance in this area while using Illinois as a “Proving Ground.”
Under our changing economy world trade is becoming a friendlier environment with doors opening to entrepreneurs at all levels. Thus, we will increase our Trade Mission activity throughout the African Diaspora. Our subsidiary Pan African Entrepreneurs Conference (PAEC) will become more active in its outreach. We kick off with a matchmaking event in beautiful Costa Rica (hosted by their new Black female Vice President) at the end of this February. Stay tuned for this and other productive trips in search of new business partners and trade opportunities. Our Annual Conference will probably be somewhere in the African Diaspora also. Stay tuned as this evolves.
We will also focus on the need of digital deployment far and wide as well as nearby. Telecom and energy access will also be within our “quiver” of expertise.
Jump on in! The waters of 2020 will be exciting.
(Harry Alford is the co-founder, president/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce. Kay DeBow is the co-founder, executive vice president of the chamber.)