At the top of the administration’s agenda is the fortification of small business, which produces the lion’s share of jobs throughout the nation. The White House appropriately convened this week the Urban Entrepreneurship Summit in Newark, New Jersey, a day-long conference aimed to assist minority small business owners by assembling government officials, private and non-profit financiers and leading entrepreneurs. I agree with the conclusion of Black Enterprise Senior VP/Editor-At-Large Alfred Edmond, Jr., my colleague who participated on the program: The administration must encourage state and local government to step up their role in job creation and business development. For example, Mayor Cory Booker should remake Newark into a catalyst for northern entrepreneurship by directing Fortune 500 companies to urban areas. Booker maintained at the conference that his administration’s Brick City Development Corporation has given out nearly $14 million in loans and, in turn, produced 42 women- and minority-owned area businesses. The hub initiative, however, would further Booker’s mandate to attract tech companies and support strategic partnerships.
The key to revitalizing small business—most notably, African American entrepreneurship—is access to capital. Despite a series of incentives and measures to encourage community banks to finance small companies, a large number still are wary of lending to start-ups as well as established firms. As part of last year’s 20/20 Vision Summit, BLACK ENTERPRISE made another recommendation that was popular with some policymakers: the Obama Administration construct a FEMA-like apparatus for small business, a direct lending facility for established minority companies as well as oversee incubators for the next generation entrepreneurs. Other recommendations: streamline certification process in government procurement; ensure greater unbundling of government contracts; and establish a new GI Bill to expand employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for military veterans.
From foreign policy to domestic affairs, Obama has become known for his pragmatic and Socratic problem-solving skills. One of his rituals has been to gather a brain trust of advisers from the private and public sector and challenging them to conjure up creative policy initiatives—a colleague of mine refers to these as “chaos sessions.” That’s the process he so brilliantly used to save the American auto industry and financial sector to cite two examples. To significantly reduce unemployment will require the most brilliant minds from business, labor, academia and finance and fully inclusive of African American and other minority leaders in those respective fields.
A recent news item reported there has been no American president since FDR that has won a second term in office with an unemployment rate above 7.3%. With less than a year and a half before the next election, Obama will need to gain more imaginative ideas and execute bolder actions in a time frame the president often refers to as “the urgency of now.”