Countdown To The 21st Century

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

labor force and perhaps market this expertise to others.”

Simms envisions the creation of economic rainbow coalitions, driven by strategic alliances between businesses owned by African Americans and companies owned by members of other ethnic minority groups.

“The 21st century will bring a new majority, where African Americans, Hispanics and Asians could jointly wield political and economic power,” Simms explains. “Think of alliances across these groups and look for ways to tap other ethnic markets, especially in the states with large minority populations.”

An early example of this is the New York-based BE 100s firm Essence Communications Inc. and its foray into the Hispanic marketplace with Latina, a magazine aimed at Hispanic women. ECI hopes to duplicate its 28-year record as the established leader in publishing and ancillary services to black women, led by its flagship property, Essence magazine.

Think of all the products and services we take for granted that weren’t even on the screen at the beginning of the century–or even this decade. Personal computers, the Internet, fax machines, international overnight delivery, cellular phones, electronic pagers–in a virtual blink of an eye, these innovations have created massive wealth for the individuals and companies that brought them to market. In an age of rapid change, it will no longer be enough to ride the latest wave; the objective must be to get credit for generating it.

“There’s a difference between planning strategically and tactically,” Swinton observes. “Tactical planning is focusing on what’s out there now. Strategic planning is about what’s likely to be and thinking in longer terms. And that really depends on us. Africa is going to change and there will be opportunities. We have to think about how to develop these opportunities. African Americans must reach beyond their level of sophistication and development and resources. Otherwise we’ll always be in the same place we’re in now.”

“Emerging markets must be a focus as opposed to cultivating existing markets,” says Brimmer. “My basic theme is that new entrepreneurs and new blackowned businesses should abandon [marketing exclusively to] the black community. The black consumer market is likely to be extremely competitive and those competing for that business will be the major firms operating in the country as a whole. Newcomers ought to focus on markets with the greatest growth potential. That means the business service market as opposed to the production of goods, and the private sector as opposed to the government sector.”

“Back in the 1950s, if people had talked about the kinds of black-owned businesses that exist now,” Simms observes, “I’m sure you would have seen some skepticism because no one would have thought what we have now was achievable within the realm of their lifetime. That’s what we need black businesses to do now. Push the envelope and think about what the further possibilities might be. It’s a stretch, but all the progress that’s been made today has been about stretching.

“The growth areas of the future may not be the

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