New York City Creates Two M/WBE Entities
New York City and several Fortune 500 companies established the New York City Minority- and Women-Owned Business Enterprises Procurement Alliance. The Alliance will allow city-certified M/WBEs to bid on corporate contracts through their diversity programs. Altria, Colgate, IBM, JPMorgan Chase, Macy’s, NBC Universal, and Pfizer are founding members of the Alliance. The city also formed an M/WBE Advisory Board to advise the Department of Small Business Services on policies and programs that impact the community. Last year, Mayor Bloomberg issued Executive Order 36 to enable greater access to contracting opportunities for M/WBEs, better prepare them to compete for city contracts and help them navigate the procurement process.
Foodtown Helps Revitalize Brooklyn’s Restoration Plaza
Foodtown agreed to build a state-of-the-art supermarket at Restoration Plaza on Fulton Street in central Brooklyn, N.Y. The Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corp., the area’s economic development agency, has launched a campaign to remodel and revitalize the Plaza. Earlier this year, a branch of Washington Mutual opened at the Plaza. A new pharmacy and an Applebee’s restaurant are expected to open in the near future. More educational and cultural events are also being negotiated for the Plaza and the Billie Holiday Theatre nearby. A portion of the plaza’s rental proceeds is earmarked for other community development initiatives.
National Urban League, Citigroup Create Financial Education Program
With a $900,000 grant from Citigroup, the National Urban League kicked off a six-city financial education program designed to help African-Americans attain home ownership, broaden employment opportunities and teach the skills needed to make informed financial decisions. NUL affiliates in New York City; Rochester, N.Y.; Chicago; Los Angeles; and Sacramento and San Diego, Calif., will use Citigroup’s financial education curriculum to train its constituents on basic banking, money management, saving and investing, spending and credit. Local Citigroup businesses will support the programs with volunteer teachers and events.
Matching Minority Businesses with Investors
The Commerce Depart-ment’s Minority Business Development Agency, the only federal agency created specifically to foster the establishment and growth of minority-owned businesses in America, is conducting a series of nationwide conferences to match MBEs with investors. Only selected businesses will make presentations to prospective investors. Participation in MBDA Fusion2004 is open to any minority-owned enterprise that is “legally structured” and in “good standing.” The showcase is open to start-up firms, but is particularly for growth-stage companies seeking expansion capital. Registration includes an entry fee of $75 (firms seeking under $500,000 in capital) or $150 (firms seeking more than $500,000 in capital). Firms selected to make presentations pay an additional fee.
Black Churches Make Strides in Business
African-American business experts say the economic power of the Black church has great potential to increase the 5 percent share of $600 billion that Black consumers spend with Black firms. According to Merrill Lynch, Black churches in Los Angeles collect and deposit $18 million per week. Churches are playing important roles as developers and neighborhood revitalizers. For example, the Rev. Jim Vickers of Ebenezer Second Baptist Church in Lincoln Heights, Ohio, and a former Fortune 50 manager, helped build a cooperative buying operation among the 480 Black churches within a 50-mile radius of Cincinnati. The Rev. Calvin Harper, chair of the Baptist Ministers Conference of Cincinnati, created a group life insurance policy and a debit card for members of his church who could not get credit cards on their own.
DOD Awards Fewer Contracts toBlack-Owned Firms
The number of contracts awarded by the Department of Defense to Black- owned firms shrank in 2003 to 0.8 percent of total defense contracts issued from 0.9 percent in 2000, according to the black money.com report, “Loaded Dice: the State of Black Business.” At the same time, the department’s procurement budget rose 55 percent, the report said. The declining trend is bad news for Black-owned companies that have built their businesses on defense contracts, particularly in areas close to defense installations, such as Huntsville, Ala.
Ranks of Poverty, Uninsured Rising
The number of Americans living in poverty increased by 1.3 million last year from 2002, while the ranks of those without medical insurance swelled by 1.4 million to 45 million, or 15.6 percent of the population, the Census Bureau reported. It was the third straight annual increase for both categories. About 35.8 million people lived below the poverty line in 2003, or about 12.5 percent of the population. The median household income, when adjusted for inflation, remained basically flat last year at $43,318. Whites, Blacks and Asians saw no noticeable change, but income fell 2.6 percent for Hispanics to nearly $33,000. Asians had the highest income, more than $55,000, while whites made $47,800 and Blacks nearly $30,000.
Haitian Bicentennial Cruise Sets Sail
“Cruising into History,” a cruise commemorating the Haitian bicentennial, left Miami this summer as planned, although actor Danny Glover, an instrumental supporter of the trip, pulled his support as a political protest. Glover said he did not want to appear to support the new government installed after the Feb. 29 ouster of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Poet Sonia Sanchez also canceled her appearance. In exile in South Africa, Aristide has accused the United States of being behind his overthrow. Washington denies the claim. About 500 people paid $1,500 to $2,500 to take the cruise, which was billed as a historical, nonpolitical opportunity to celebrate Haiti’s bicentennial with Black celebrities.
New Signs of Cooperation Among Black Baptists
Leaders of the country’s four major Black Baptist organizations hope a historic meeting in January will forge a unified voice to address social and political issues affecting all Blacks. As many as 10,000 delegates from the National Baptist Convention USA, the National Baptist Convention of America, the Progressive National Baptist Convention and the National Missionary Baptist Convention of America are expected to meet in Nashville, Tenn., Jan. 24-27. It will be the first meeting of its kind since the groups began splintering nearly 100 years ago over policy and operations.
Company Creates Animated Robotic Characters
African-American-owned Digibots Corp. (www.digibots.us), of Katy, Texas, has created animated robotic characters to address inappropriate behavior in the classroom, such as name calling, cheating, tardiness, and temper tantrums. The characters are featured in a book of short stories, “Digibots Classroom Adventures,” that gives the reader insight into how to address the inappropriate behavior in a positive way. A DVD and a videotape, complete with a discussion guide, are also available.