What advantages do you have over the other candidates running to replace Sen. Burris?
The biggest, most contrasting difference between me and all of my opponents — whether Democrat or Republican — is I am the only one with any practical experience in solving and working with the kinds of problems that everyday people face. I am the only one that doesn’t come from a life of privilege. There is nothing wrong with being privileged but it is not most people’s experience and it certainly is not most people’s experience today in the worst economic crisis we have witnessed in a lifetime.
Why do you believe that small businesses are an essential piece to the jobs puzzle?
There is a lot of talk about jobs training, but there is little talk about where these jobs are coming from. Unfortunately, they won’t be coming from multinational corporations. History shows that 80% of jobs [in the inner city] are created by small business. This is particularly so during times of deep economic recession. It has always been the case that small businesses have led the way forward out of recessions. They create jobs and they innovate.
What suggestions do you have to help small business owners raise capital?
Two things are going to be key to recovering the economy and getting us out of this crisis, solving the housing crisis and making certain that small business owners are up on their feet and going because that is where job creation happens. When job creation happens then consumer activity increases.
We saw a lot of leadership and coming together around the private and public sector to solve the crisis at hand with the financial services industries, Wall Street and the auto industry. I think it’s that same sort of hyper-intentionality that we need to see around small business owners. We need to forge partnerships between the private sector, the public sector and small business owners to triage the problems.
The Chicago Urban League has a history of being affiliated with television shows. It used to be involved with “People to People” and now it produces NextTV. What purpose does NextTV serve?
We wanted to get a Chicago Urban League show up and running again but I knew I didn’t want to do a typical public affairs show where you have a host and talking heads. I wanted to tell the stories of economic empowerment. I thought there was a better format to tell those stories of transformation. People learn best by doing rather then have someone else talk about it. I wanted the viewer to learn about why entrepreneurship is important and what all is involved with being an entrepreneur by watching someone else go through it, and not by having an expert, policy person or me talking about it in a professorial way.