Black Enterprise joined several black media outlets in an exclusive news conference with President Barack Obama aboard Air Force One. Hours before he delivered a rousing speech Thursday at the NAACP’s centennial conference, he fielded questions from black journalists regarding his administration’s plans to tackle pressing economic and social issues confronting African Americans. According to White House officials, it was the first time a president had held such a roundtable session with black media on the aircraft.
Other participants included Ebony Magazine, Urban Radio Network, Amsterdam News, TV One and Essence Magazine, which were seated in the guest area usually reserved for dignitaries before the news conference instead of the traditional White House pool press area in the rear of the plane. Each media organization was given the opportunity to ask the President one question in a session that lasted less than an hour.
In Air Force One’s spacious leather-adorned conference room, the president discussed healthcare reform, race relations and minority business, among other topics, in a relaxed, thoughtful manner. BE zeroed in on the area minority business development and the prospects of the Administration using a portion of funds from the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief, or TARP, as a possible bailout for small business. “I’ve pushed the Treasury Department to look at more ways that we can support small businesses,” he said. “We’re glad to see some stabilizing in the financial markets, and as a consequence I think that you’re going to start seeing credit conditions ease a little bit.”
He stressed that the Small Business Administration had increased its loan guarantees and developed programs offering relief to minority auto dealers and other entrepreneurs devastated by the economic downturn. “I was in a meeting with minority auto dealers who obviously are going through a tough time as GM and Chrysler restructure, and the SBA is one of the primary tools to make sure that those minority dealers are potentially able to get floor plan loans,” he said. On July 1, the agency announced it will offer loans guaranteed by the federal government to finance inventory for eligible dealerships. Floor-plan financing is critical for dealers because the line of credit that allows them to borrow against inventory and then repay the debt as they sell their stock or borrow against the line of credit to add new inventory.
Obama further stated that fixing the economy would serve as the best tonic for small and minority companies. “The bigger problem that we are seeing right now in terms of small businesses and minority businesses has less to do with access to capital, although that’s still a serious problem, than it has to do with the overall condition of the economy and fewer customers,” he said on the flight. “So what we want to do is try to stay focused on how do we make sure consumers feel confident, how do we make sure that the Recovery Act is operating effectively, what we can do to spur more demand so that minority businesses are seeing a stabilization of their customer base and their revenues. In that circumstance, I think that we’re going to make sure that they’ve got enough capital.”