TNJ Turns 10; SBA Turns 50
This issue marks the 10th anniversary of the debut of The Network Journal and we've created a special section that celebrates the life and incarnations of TNJ and the community that gave birth to and supported it over the years. Our highlights of "the TNJ decade" pinpoint moments such as the appointment of M. Jocelyn Elders as America's first black surgeon general in 1993 and the demise of apartheid in South Africa. We recall some of the power women and rising stars we identified back then and tell you where they are now. We look at the African-American presence in key industries. Herb Boyd, a TNJ contributor from day one and author of such works as Brotherman, The Odyssey of Black Men in America and The Harlem Reader: A Celebration of New York's Most Famous Neighborhood From the Renaissance Years to the 21st Century, relays comments from 10 black New York icons. And we take a gander at the future, citing forces likely to impact our community.
It's also the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), the federal agency to which many African-American business owners turn for loans and contracts when the commercial sector comes up short. SBA is a key supporter of TNJ's annual Entrepreneurs' Resource Guide. Its biggest claim to fame for minority entrepreneurs is its 8(a) Program, which is aimed at helping small, disadvantaged businesses develop through access to federal procurement contracts. Named for a section of the Small Business Act, 8(a) reportedly has helped socially and economically disadvantaged firms to access some $88 billion in contracts since its inception in 1968.
Another important SBA feature is its small business development centers (SBDCs). Attached to colleges and universities, SBDCs provide one-on-one counseling and training in business problems�organizational, financial, marketing and technical, among others. There's one in every borough of New York City.
Far less acclaimed is SBA's genius for verbal acrobatics, by which it accommodates the subtle tension between "minority " and "diversity" advocacy. SBA's universe includes DBEs (disadvantaged business enterprises) and SDBs (socially disadvantaged businesses). There are SDB-certified DBEs; minority DBEs; nonminority women DBEs and 8(a)-certified DBEs. An 8(a)-certified firm automatically becomes an SDB. And nonminority women DBEs can seek SDB or 8(a) certification.
"The 8(a) Program is not a special program for minorities per se," says Georgia Ellis, assistant district director in the SBA New York District Office for Business Development. "Other individuals can be considered to be socially disadvantaged if they show, through a preponderance of the evidence, that they are disadvantaged because of race, ethnicity, gender, physical handicap or residence in an environment isolated from the mainstream of American society."
That's about as inclusive as you can get.
By Rosalind McLymont