When I moderated the global business panel at the 2010 Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Conference in May, I asked that question to our audience, mentioning the fact that only 5% of the world’s population resides in the United States.
It’s the second year that our conference has stressed the need for a global agenda—one I’ll continue to push going forward. Whether or not you agree with the increasing globalization and convergence of world economies, there’s little doubt that they’re here for the foreseeable future. For the be 100s, the nation’s largest black-owned businesses, it’s imperative that more of them incorporate a global strategy in their business plans.
According to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration, more than $1 trillion of goods were exported in 2009. And despite the Great Recession, that sum has grown from $901 billion in exports for 2005. While there’s no empirical data, it’s safe to assume the vast majority of that staggering sum was collected by publicly traded concerns or those not owned by America’s ethnic minorities.
Why is this important? For starters, the U.S. Census Bureau projects that by 2050—just 40 years from now—the number of ethnic minorities in the U.S. will collectively outnumber that of Caucasians. Currently, minorities are more likely to pursue entrepreneurship. If that trend continues, it stands to reason that the number of minority business enterprises will also exceed that of white-owned businesses. This makes the success of minority business entrepreneurs (MBEs) not a black, Asian, white or Latino issue, but an American issue.
Virtually all be 100s of 2050 will have some sort of global footprint. Entrepreneurs who were too unsure or inflexible to participate in the global opportunities of the 21st century have already been weeded out while those who embraced this thrust are conducting business at levels prior generations of African Americans never thought possible.
Some BE 100s CEOs have read the writing on the wall. Take Leon C. Richardson, CEO of ChemicoMays L.L.C. (No. 100 on the BE Industrial/Service Companies list with $25 million in revenues). Within the last year, Richardson took his Chesterfield, Michigan-based chemical management business and expanded it to Mexico. Despite the economic downturn, his firm added 40 positions in the last two years and landed two chemical management contracts. Richardson, a newcomer to the ranks of the be 100s, views Mexico as part of his firm’s growth strategy and a stepping stone to South America. All told, he’s expecting Mexican operations to contribute as much as $10 million in additional revenues.
This is where it’s all heading. Businesses today either need to seek out ways to participate in the global economy or go the way of most things that don’t adapt and change—like the dinosaur.
Alan Hughes is BE’s editorial director of business.