For close to a century, the automotive industry has been one of the engines of our American economy. It is the source of millions of blue-collar and white-collar jobs for our citizens. It supports the growth and development of thousands of small and medium-sized businesses, and helps to sustain other larger corporations in industries ranging from energy to technology. It has made and continues to make upward mobility accessible to millions of hard-working families, providing them with the resources to own homes, finance their children’s education and enjoy a comfortable retirement. Now, the industry that has been so vital to the advancement of our nation faces one of the most severe economic downturns in American history. In light of this disastrous state of affairs, it is imperative that Congress creates legislation and work with the White House to provide financial aid to this vital and irreplaceable sector of American industry. In fact, President-elect Barack Obama has already openly supported immediate emergency assistance for the industry.
As President and CEO of BLACK ENTERPRISE and a current board member of AutoZone, I know first-hand that the challenges of the auto industry is not a Detroit problem but a Main Street dilemma. For nearly four decades, our media outlets have reported on the positive impact car makers have had on providing employment opportunities and career advancement for professionals across myriad disciplines as well as expanding, developing and funding enterprises, large and small — businesses that, in turn, have generated jobs for communities throughout the country. An example of the impact of the auto industry can be found if one reviews BLACK ENTERPRISE’s annual rankings of the nation’s largest black-owned businesses, the B.E. 100s. Of the 280 corporations included on our multiple listings of industrial/service companies, auto dealerships, advertising agencies and financial services firms, 100 are auto dealers and roughly 20 industrial/service companies supply raw materials, products and services to car manufacturers. That’s not to mention the scores of black advertising agencies and financial firms that have provided services to the industry.
If the auto industry is allowed to decline further, many of these companies will be forced to close their doors, wrecking the financial future of many black-owned businesses and the livelihoods of their employees. The companies on our lists will be unable to pay or contract suppliers and will be forced to lay off workers. As a result, large numbers of smaller entities — IT firms, raw materials manufacturers, personnel services companies, law firms, accountants and other such vendors would face extinction. Moreover, hundreds of thousands of American households would be devastated. As these workers lose jobs, they will no longer have the resources to make purchases from retailers or invest in the financial markets. So you can clearly see that support of the auto industry represents one of our best hopes for the restoration of confidence in the American economy.
If the industry does not gain financial support, then the well being of millions of Americans and the entire U.S. economy will most