business development in urban areas across the county.
“But how much will minority businesses benefit from Clinton’s program?” asks Boston. “There was much expected of the empowerment zones in Atlanta, for instance, but right now there’s not a lot happening. Overall [empowerment zones] may be a good program or a good beginning, but a lot more needs to be done.”
The verdict is still out on how effective these zones will be in the long-run. But for some, the idea itself was enough to provide a needed kick-start. A good example is Aliyyah Baylor, a 27-year-old Harlem native and single mother who has operated a bakery out of her home for the last several years. Her business has grown as her client list expanded to include major players like Bad Boy Entertainment and Universal Records.
Baylor dreamed of opening up her own shop, but “I got too caught up in being comfortable working out of my home.” However, after Harlem became an empowerment zone, she began exploring locations for her own store. “Once there are financial incentives being offered, you have to get going. The procrastination stops,” says Baylor, who ultimately found working out of her kitchen too limiting.
Her bakery, Make My Cake, had its grand opening in December, and she projects gross revenues of slightly under $200,000 for the first year of operation.
Baylor is an example of young blacks shunning the corporate nine-to-five grind and setting out on their own (see “From Buppy to Biz Whiz,” this issue). “In schools today, one of our fastest growing programs is entrepreneurship. You can’t get people to teach them fast enough,” says Alexis. “Kids coming to our school don’t expect to work for anybody for more than three to five years.” Adds Earl G. Graves, “I believe that if we could create a greater entrepreneurial class, we would create more jobs and fix a significant part of the problem.”
Still, are empowerment zones the answer? Some neighborhoods, such as Harlem, have attracted a great deal of activity. Yet others have gotten off to a late start, with would-be applicants bogged down in paperwork and red tape. The zones offer tax advantages to businesses that open in urban areas and tax credits if they hire within the targeted neighborhood.
The enterprise communities are 65 urban and 30 rural areas that received $3 million grants and smaller packages of tax incentives. The cities named as empowerment zones arc New York, Chicago, Baltimore, Atlanta, Detroit and Philadelphia-Camden, New Jersey. Each received $100 million in grants and the right to $250 million in tax incentives for businesses over the next 10 years. “It’s a big jump. It’s not easy being a young black woman and trying to start your own business,” Baylor says, adding, “and anything to aid you to land on your feet is a big help.”
LOOKING FOR A MAGIC BULLET
What’s the solution to ensuring economic prosperity for African Americans in the near and not-so near future? BE’s economists conclude that Baylor, and thousands more like her, are taking