Obama’s Urban Agenda: An Economic Engine for the Nation

In a conference call today, Michael Coleman, mayor of Columbus, Ohio, addressed Obama’s plan for urban renewal with Earl G. Graves Sr., publisher of Black Enterprise magazine. Jobs, foreclosures, and health insurance were the areas that Coleman identified as major challenges in Columbus neighborhoods.


Cities house more than 80% of the people, businesses, universities, and cultural institutions in America, and represent 80% of the Gross Domestic Product.


“The reason why the [urban agenda] is important is because we are in the most challenging economic times we’ve seen since the depression,” Coleman says. “It is clear that Obama understands that metropolitan areas are tremendous economic engines. If you have an impact on the metropolitan areas, you have an impact on the nation.”


Coleman says that one part of the Obama urban agenda is to create business incubators to promote increased access to capital for minority businesses and establish public and private incubators to help design businesses. “You’ve got to create business in a time of economic challenge. It is the best way to create jobs,” Coleman says.


Less than 1%  of the $250 billion in venture capital dollars invested annually nationwide has been directed to the country’s 4.4 million minority business owners. A recent study found that minority business owners, even if they have the same characteristics as other business owners, are denied credit much more frequently and are required to pay higher interest rates than white applicants.


“We are experiencing an economic crisis. It is not new. In the black community, it has been at a crisis level for some time now,” Coleman says. Since 2001, when George Bush and Dick Cheney came into office, the Black community has lost 500,000 jobs. Right now the unemployment rate for the Black community is 11.6%.


“On the economy, McCain just doesn’t get it,” Graves says. “We have been losing jobs faster than we’ve been gaining them. Sen. Obama has a policy to turn that around. McCain’s tax plans leave out working Americans struggling to make ends meet.”


Coleman says that there are stark differences between McCain and Obama, but found that McCain’s policies are similar to those executed over the past eight years, which ushered in the neglect of urban communities. McCain has repeatedly voted against the community development block grants, a program that Obama supports and George Bush tried to eliminate.” These grants provide vital funds for affordable housing and economic development activities and improving urban infrastructure,” Graves says.


Obama’s plan also promises to create a White House Office of Urban Policy, make public transportation available and affordable so that low income workers can get to jobs, increase the minimum wage to ensure that companies keep pace with inflation, require employers to provide sick leave to employees, and end tax breaks for companies that ship American jobs overseas.


“Whether or not you’re talking about Columbus, Ohio, Harlem, or somewhere in the Deep South, the cities

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