Countdown To The 21st Century

How can black companies thrive in the new millennium? Our economists offer imperatives CEOs must embrace now

As the year 2000 beckons, few could argue with the impressive strides black-owned businesses have made over the last several decades. It wasn’t so long ago that BLACK ENTERPRISE first began taking the pulse and charting the growth of the nation’s largest black-owned companies. That 1973 listing generated combined sales of less than a half-billion dollars. Little more than a quarter-century later, the size, scope and diversity of black-owned concerns have never been more impressive. Combined sales of the companies tracked in our BE 100s report eclipse $14 billion.

So why worry? With success comes the threat of complacency. And as the new millennium bears down on us all, black business owners can least afford to become lax in their continued efforts at growth and expansion.

With that in mind, BE Publisher Earl G. Graves convened 1998′s first biannual meeting of the BE Board of Economists at the New York offices of Earl G. Graves Ltd. Present at the meeting were Thomas D. Boston, an economics professor at Atlanta’s Georgia Institute of Technology; David H. Swinton, president of Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina; Margaret C. Simms, vice president for research at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies in Washington, D.C.; Andrew F. Brimmer, president of Washington, D.C.-based Brimmer & Co.; Marcus Alexis, a professor of economics and management strategy at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois; and Cecilia A. Conrad, an economics professor at Claremont, California’s Pomona College. Also invited to make a special presentation to the board was Aida Alvarez, head of the U.S. Small Business Administration.

The task set before the board: to clearly define the imperatives that CEOs must embrace to transform their businesses into the BE 100s companies of the new millennium.

10 THINK GLOBALLY.
Opportunities–and competition–are no longer only on the next block or in the next town. Thanks to advances in communications technology and methods of distribution, you can find new business in, or lose old customers to, markets on the other side of the world. Even so-called morn-and-pop businesses had better be attentive.

“The U.S. economy is becoming more open and competitive,” observes Cecilia Conrad. “Advancements in communications and information technologies make it possible for a company in small town USA to service customers all over the world. African countries such as Uganda have experienced rapid economic growth and should continue to do so. Clinton’s proposal for NAFTAtype trade agreements with countries in Africa and the Caribbean should create new opportunities for entrepreneurs.”

Adds David Swinton: “Black businesses must realize that the world is evolving and that global opportunities are going to be growing rapidly. It will be necessary for businesses to be able to tie into global labor pools, markets and capital sources. There are going to be opportunities to find financing in the global market. And we have to be aware of that if we’re going to be a part of it in the 21 st century.”
Marcus Alexis says global opportunities are no longer restricted to Fortune 500 conglomerates. “There are lots of firms-small firms–that

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