As President Barack Obama embarked on the first of a series of trips he will make on his listening tour of America to promote job creation and growth, Black Enterprise hosted a forum to explore strategies and solutions that will ensure that African Americans will be key players in the nation’s economic revival.
Black Enterprise has dedicated the past 40 years to being a catalyst for solutions for African American entrepreneurship, wealth building, and career development, explained Derek T. Dingle, editor in chief of Black Enterprise magazine, and the conference — “20/20 Vision: A Look Ahead at Black America in the Next Economic Boom”– is a natural extension of the company’s mission.
“This conference is one of those vehicles in which we can provide policy recommendations on a range of areas that involve African Americans, typically as it relates to business and finance,” Dingle said. “We wanted to hear from administration officials, but just as important, we wanted them to meet some of the leaders in the African American business community and gain input from them about what’s happening with their businesses and financial lives.”
Some of the solutions discussed at the Wal-Mart Stores Inc.-sponsored conference centered on getting access to capital through initiatives such as the $30 billion in TARP money that the president has proposed be used to increase lending to small businesses via community banks. Panelists also urged entrepreneurs to fight for increased access to resources such as bonding assistance, which enables construction companies, for example, to go after higher-margin projects that will help them expand their businesses.
In addition to providing an assessment of the state of black America in terms of employment rates and entrepreneurship during the conference, BE 100 CEOs, corporate executives, educators, and economists discussed how African Americans can become vital members of the workforce of the future and job-creating entrepreneurs in the face of high unemployment. Sessions focused on the importance of education and workforce readiness, small business innovation, partnerships between small businesses and major corporations, and wealth building.
During the session on jobs and workforce readiness, Bernard Anderson, Ph.D., a member of the Black Enterprise Board of Economists and CEO of EuQuant, took a more sobering look at the pace of job recovery. He predicted that it will take much longer for the American workforce in general, but for blacks in particular, to experience real recovery than White House officials have forecast.
But Janice Bryant Howroyd, president and CEO of ACT-1 Group, said that could be a good thing because it presents opportunities for many people to become entrepreneurial pioneers and strike out on their own.
The discussion also included the necessity to increase college matriculation and graduation rates among African American students.