A 10 year Plan for Black Business
"This is a Black Stream of Thought"
Vol: 3, January 2023
There needs to be a Ten-Year Plan for Black Business Development
What's missing in the whole scheme of Black business development is "a Ten-Year Plan and strategy with structural guidelines for Black businesses development and for Black community enhancement. We need to focus on making Black businesses an" economic engine" that begins to make economic change within the Black community. An engine that drives supports, and enhances overall conditions within specific communities. In addition, we need a coalition of Black and white businesses developed and led by a "Trusted Agent" to oversee the programmatic efforts required to move the plan forward continually. Most corporations, municipalities, and other prominent organizations do not offer such a strategic plan for developing their Black and minority business with outcome measures and targeted results. Up until now, the results have been blind luck with gracious acceptance. We need continual information that will enable us to make changes as necessary in our strategies and see the effect of these changes.
If Black businesses could be recognized as economic engines within a community. Should there not be a designed effort to utilize them for community enhancement? It is time to move past the results of redundant actions to planned economic improvements, especially when the designed impact organ is Black and minority businesses. The continued acceptance of Black business results by current efforts further augments the beliefs embodied in social responses of the '60s, not in economic ones required today. Black business development should no longer only be seen as any form of entitlement.
Even though Black businesses today are not singularly located within a specific community. They are currently spread out across the region and are still efficient engines supporting the Black community's uplift. For example, it is stated that 60% of the employees of a Black business will be Black and that 45% of Black businesses are located within the bounds of the Black community. Further, Black business growth and development opportunities are expanding almost daily. Still, they are not tracked, so no one can see the effects of this business expansion.
We must have a plan that declares that Black folks are more than consumers! And the goal cannot be built upon the success of a few Blacks and their celebrity value but on the economic development and abilities of Black businesses to drive local community change and overall city growth. We do not need "Herschel Walkers" being offered as Black symbolism for public office but persons able to carry the weight as an advocate for the Black community and the city's overall development. Those particularly involved in small business development, along with their granting authorities, governments, local corporations, and would-be entrepreneurs, should aggregate their efforts and share the results.
The Metropolitan Atlanta Chamber of Commerce recently launched a program called Atlanta Action for Racial Equity (AARE) to support the growth and development of Black businesses. The Chamber is among the many that, within the past few years, have offered contracts, funding, and other support to Black and minority businesses. AARE is an example of a current program designed for corporate supply chain support. Thus, it is merely the recent major corporate-supported effort expanded to include former non-participant business involvement with some additional bells and whistles. Therefore, there is nothing new about the action, just the definition and encouraged corporate participation.
The AARE program is mindful of President Richard Nixon's effort to create "Black Capitalism" in the late 1960s. He created the Office of Minority Business Enterprise in the US Department of Commerce to assist minority businesses. Still, he did not include any funding for the companies. Thus, business development and growth were and still are stunted. Like the Nixon effort, AARE apparently does not supply financing. Still, it looks to others who are not at the table to do so.
But the real question is, what are they trying to accomplish? Is it to close the wealth gap? They state the desire to develop more corporate contracts and to create larger Black businesses. What about the effects of Black companies on community development or other local community economic needs? It would make sense to demonstrate how the effort helped enhance the living standards within the local Black communities. Helping to improve the economic conditions of specific Black communities should be a pre-condition to any working agreements. For example, increased contracts probably will bring about increased wages for locals while at the same time growing the contracting business and thus would be a benefactor for closing the wealth gap.
None of which matters if there isn't any specific set of goals defining outcome targets they are trying to hit and tying specific results to programmatic activities while acting as the "Trusted Agent" to oversee and manage the plan. However, they do plan to issue a report. And, as the program's "Trusted Agent," they will offer guidance to the corporations involved in the efforts for success, lead the programmatic accomplishments, make changes, and report the same to the community and city but in the same ole way!
AARE will bring community benefit to those individual major corporations that have signed up for the program, and to those Black and minority businesses involved, along with the Metro Chamber itself. Nevertheless, they have yet to create a plan to reach specified goals, complete with measurements and other determinants of success. They cannot leave it to fate. While it is appropriate for chamber member companies to set their own purpose, it is even more pertinent to set a community-wide goal for efforts such as AARE. However, with the Chamber program and other initiators of Black and minority developmental success, it is left to "whatever happens--happens"!
Suppose the Chamber is serious about its efforts. In that case, it should partner with the Minority business organizations such as the Atlanta Business League and form a consortium that oversees the efforts with reports back to each organization's Board of Directors and the community. As Mr. Buckminister Fuller famously wrote, "You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete."
We need a plan that is imaginative in its thinking, uses the knowledge and experiences of its people and history, and truly speaks to the values of its people. For example, my young grandsons happened upon a Chamber of Commerce mixer in another city. At the mixer, everyone was to give their elevator speech. My grandsons needed to recognize that what they were doing in their daily lives was a business that answered the needs of larger audiences than those in which they had been involved. Nevertheless, they gave their versions of an elevator speech and afterward enthusiastically received requests for more information, business cards, etc. The young men were so excited that they were included in the larger group's efforts to do business and to share information. They quickly understood people's desire to know more about their ideas and that they were excellent business ideas. My point is my grandsons needed to recognize they were in business. Many of our organizations generally do not include development opportunities and involvement for young ideas that may need to be formulated into a business plan someday.
No one has even considered the present-day outcomes of Black business organizations currently working in the same area that the Chamber has now taken over. For example, in procurement, has anyone ever combined the outputs of organizations such as the Georgia Minority Supplier Development Council, Greater Urban League of Atlanta, The City of Atlanta, the County governments, and the local cities in which similar efforts have been spawned? What would that total look like?? Are we working together for a common purpose, for some form of formal recognition, or better yet, for a market response, or is everyone doing this for their Black market response needs? Of course, you would have to scrub the outputs for any contract duplicates offered by similar groups, but never-the-less, the number would be huge! Yet even with any combinations, what would the numbers tell you about closing the wealth gap within a specific community's development or some other definition of change.
I have been down this road before and even participated in its efforts. Among the things clearly missing are a metropolitan goal, a community report, partnering with local Black resources, and new ideas. Major corporations think as major corporations, and their view or understanding of smaller growth Black businesses is insular and different even when they believe they speak the same language. Further, most of these corporations nor their leadership live in or near the Black community and have enough understanding of the opportunities that could be undertaken to close the wealth gap. As an example of the goals, a consideration that affects specific markets and the creation or support of businesses within those markets could be considered.
Considering our experiences and this illuminating time in history, we need to work together on a plan with commitments that extend through this pandemic into the future! A strategic plan that provides the underpinning (Savings Account Strategy) and provides for the future protection of our communities and businesses. One which would engage and utilize Black and minority-owned businesses and increase the support that could extend through recovery from the coronavirus recession into the future. Finally, we could help our Black businesses regain their rightful place as an economic engine capable of supporting our communities and the city utilizing shared leadership and a common goal.
According to Ed Catmull, former President of Walt Disney Animation Studios---"To change the world, we must bring new things into being. But how do we go about creating the unmade future? I believe all we can do is foster the optimal conditions in which---whatever 'it' is—can emerge and flourish. This is where real confidence comes in. Not the confidence that we know exactly what to do at all times but the confidence that together, we will figure it out.".
Atlanta has the potential to develop into an actual land of opportunity and a model for economic accomplishment. But there must be a plan. Much of what has happened within the Black community is a result of the rich history and success of Black folk in Atlanta, added to the political success and growing economic success of today's people. What would Atlanta be like if it were responding to the attributes of a strategic plan for the Black business and the uplifting of the predominately Black communities? And, those attributes were incorporated into the "Brand" that makes the ATL where the world wants to live, work, and Play! What a competitive advantage we would have!
It is about partnership economics! According to the book “Better Capitalism,” partnership economics is “sharing and pursuing our economic neighbor’s interest and our self-interest.” And as Dr. Martin Luther King said: economic partnerships are “based upon some self-interest of each component group and a common interest into which they merge. For an alliance to have permanence and loyal commitment from its various elements, each of them must have a goal from which it benefits, and none must have an outlook in basic conflict with the others.”