BE Forum Explores Solutions for Economic Revival

BE Forum Explores Solutions for Economic Revival

Dr. Michael Lomax, president and CEO of the United Negro College Fund, said that too many students drop out between their first and second years. They leave college with more skills than when they entered but not enough to compete in the workforce. He and Anderson debated the value of community colleges, which Lomax said is a good first step or alternative for students facing financial challenges or adults who must balance work, families and schools.

Americans have for the past year expressed a great deal of outrage over the bailout of Wall Street that has enabled financial institutions to endure and even thrive while communities all along Main Street struggle and in some, particularly those in which African Americans work and live, crumble. Many people are still wondering how it all happened and how to prevent another economic meltdown.

Panelists in a session on wealth-building and financial reform agreed that the blame can be placed all around.
Eugene Profit, president and CEO of Profit Investment Management, said that consumer financial literacy is a big factor. Before taking such risks they have to develop an “understanding what the investment universe is about, what the expectations are and why it should be an investment in the first place.”

Christopher Williams, CEO of Williams Capital Management, a subsidiary of Williams Capital Group LP (No. 2 in taxable securities with $2.1 billion in lead issues on the BE investment banks list), surmised that until some real reforms are put in place, if a similar scenario were to take place again, a bailout remains the only option.

“That’s what bothers me more than anything,” Williams said.

While the federal government continues to grapple for ways to spur both lending and contracting opportunities, it is in the best interest of black entrepreneurs to seek alternative ways to build their businesses.

“At the end of the day, businesses need to grow to size and scale. We have to change how black businesses work together,” advised David Hinson, national director of the Minority Business Development Agency. “If one company is too small to become a prime contractor it needs to consider strategic alliances and joint ventures so they can come together.”

Those that can afford to do so, may want to consider actually buying another small business, and those that can’t should think about being acquired.

Bill Mays, chairman and CEO of Mays Chemical Co. (No. 21 on the BE Industrial/Service Companies list with $208 million in revenues), said that he’s been “very blessed” to have excellent access to capital. More important, Mays is willing to share those blessings with businesses that look like good investments, which he said has made a big difference in their ability to grow.

“There’s a gentleman here who’s interested in supplying me with cleaning materials that he manufactures. If it looks like it makes any sense, I may buy a part of his company so he can have some capital,” Mays shared.