Where We Must Go From Here

President and COO of Black Enterprise Earl "Butch" Graves Jr. provides an outlook for the next 30 years

in our quest for economic, business, and professional advancement. To put it bluntly: Those who understand and exploit technology’s ability to level the playing field for African Americans will get ahead. Those people and communities that refuse to acknowledge and adapt to this reality will be consigned to economic and social irrelevance, left to suffer, wither, and die in the harsh, unforgiving wasteland of obsolescence. And if we don’t make the mastery of technology a non-negotiable in the education and development of our children, we are consigning them to a hopeless existence marked by near-absolute unemployability. Look no further than your local supermarket, bank branch, or car repair shop, and you’ll see that technological training and proficiency — even more than the traditional degrees of higher education — will be required to gain and maintain living wages in the New Economy.

Third, we must set aside, once and for all, the fear, distrust, and ego that have historically blocked the ability of black businesses to merge and form partnerships and strategic alliances with other black-owned companies in order to gain the size and economies of scale necessary to compete in a truly global economy. There will always be, indeed there must always be, a significant proportion of our companies that will remain wholly black-owned and closely held at any given point in time. But we can no longer allow that standard to be the ceiling on, rather than the foundation for, the unlimited potential of black business growth, profitability, and competitiveness. We can no longer suffer the ridiculous proposition that multibillion-dollar white-owned conglomerates can set aside their egos in order to create market-dominating behemoths, but the owners of two $20-million black-owned companies can’t figure out a way to merge for the sake of their own mutual survival and long-term profitability. We have to focus on the creation of multibillion-dollar, black-owned multinationals, building on the example of the late CEO Reginald F. Lewis’ TLC International Foods, or black business will be marginalized to the point of irrelevance in the New Economy.

A new generation of business leaders, a generation I’m proud to be a part of, is poised to achieve these imperatives and to exploit the principles of business success, professional excellence, and wealth accumulation established by my father and mother and others of the generation that precedes us. They include the likes of Chuck James, Mellody Hobson, Antonio “L.A.” Reid and Keith Clinkscales. Whether you are familiar with these players or their names are new to you, these top business achievers are already making their mark in the industries that will shape the fortunes of the future not only nationally, but globally: the financial markets, the Internet, and other technologies, the packaging of brands and delivery of content, and the marketing of intellectual property. In the pages that follow, you’ll meet the 30 impact players we expect to dominate the pages of our magazine — as well as blackenterprise.com, the Black Enterprise Book Series, and our other current and future content outlets — as we

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