Boston-based OneUnited Bank, the country’s largest African-American-owned bank with more than $500 million in assets and branches in Massachusetts, Florida and California, said it financed more than $150 million in new loans in 2005, more than half of which were in low- to moderate-income communities. The bank said it introduced free online banking, Visa debit card services, certificates of deposit and single-family mortgages with attractive rates during the year. It also was involved in significant community projects by minority developers, including the financing of a shopping mall in Compton, Calif., an affordable housing project in Miami and a commercial office building in Grove Hall, Mass.
BankBlackwell (www.bankblackwell.com), the first Black-owned online savings bank, said Mt. Ararat Baptist Church of Pittsburgh, Pa., will be the first African-American church to participate in its Church Investment Program, which is designed to create an alliance between the bank and the African-American church community that promotes economic empowerment, wealth creation and increased home ownership. Under the program, a church can purchase a minimum of $1,000 worth of BankBlackwell stock. The bank is offering up to 1,664,000 shares of its common stock at a public offering price of $10 per share.
A new U.S. Small Business Admin-istration new Web portal provides comprehensive business information and assistance to women entrepreneurs. MY BIZ for Women (www.SBA.gov/women) offers one-stop access to information on starting and growing a small business, gaining access to capital and contracting opportunities, links to other government agencies and SBA resource partners offering business counseling, a state-by-state listing of SBA’s Women’s Business Centers, as well as up-to-date business data and research, success stories, business tips and a calendar of upcoming events.
M.T.C. Technologies Inc., a Dayton, Ohio, provider of engineering, information technology and other technical services to the Department of Defense and national security agencies, signed a mentor-protégé agreement with HyperNet Solutions Inc. of Del City, Okla., through the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization. Under the three-year agreement, M.T.C. will help HyperNet develop its competitiveness and independence, mentoring the company in a broad range of business disciplines ranging from development to program management. HyperNet is an information technology, engineering and government services contractor.
The American Small Business League said a recommendation by the U.S. Civil Rights Commission to eliminate “race-conscious programs” is unconscionable and would remove the minimal opportunities that minorities have for doing business with the federal government at a time when the government has never hit its 5 percent minority business contracting goal. The commission majority argues that federal agencies have not implemented practices to ensure that racially based preferences serve a compelling government interest. Dissenters said the commission majority misconstrues the Supreme Court’s decision and “takes a radical step backward from the race-progressive policies this nation has undertaken” while ignoring pertinent data received from federal agencies. Participation in the Small Business Administration’s 8(a) program has actually declined over the past several years.
Home Box Office is accepting entries for its 9th Annual HBO Short Film Award, a competition for Black filmmakers. The $20,000 grand prize will be presented at the Film Life and HBO American Black Film Festival in South Beach, Fla., July 19-23. The competition is open to U.S. and international filmmakers of African descent, 18 years of age and older, who have directed and/or written a short film of 15 minutes duration or less. All films must have been produced after Jan. 1, 2005, in English or contain English subtitles. The deadline for entries is Friday, April 7. Submissions will be accepted on DVD only, official HBO/A.B.F.F. entry forms, are obtainable at http://www.abff.com.
A series of grassroots meetings that will be held nationwide to develop a plan for reversing the epidemic of childhood obesity and inactivity kicked off in Memphis, Tenn., on Jan. 21. The summit, which brought together parents, grandparents, youth aged 14 and older, business, civic and government leaders, urban planners, churches, educators and health care providers, launched the next phase of the Shaping America’s Youth (SAY) initiative of the new Shaping America’s Health: Association for Weight Management and Obesity Prevention. For information on upcoming meetings, visit http://meetings.shapingamericasyouth.org, or call 800-SAY-9221.
Sallie Mae Scholarships
The Sallie Mae Fund, which provides scholarships for low-income and minority collegebound students each year, said applications for the 2006-2007 academic year are now available at its Web site, www.salliemaefund.org. The application deadline for the “First in My Family” Scholarship Program for Hispanic-Americans is April 15; for the “Unmet Need” program, May 31; the “American Dream” program, April 15; the “Writers of Passage” program, March 3; and for The Sallie Mae 911 Education Fund, open. The fund also awards $500 to $1,000 scholarships to future college students at its nationwide “Paying for College” workshops.
Low Literacy Levels
The National Coalition for Literacy is calling for substantially increased funding for adult education and family literacy programs and services in the wake of troubling results from the Department of Education’s National Assessment of Adult Literacy survey. Released in December, the survey found that as many as 93 million adults lack the basic tools to succeed in modern America and need some kind of literacy service. Of these people, 14 percent, or 30 million, are at-risk adults, categorized as “Below Basic.” Another 29 percent of the population, or 63 million adults, can understand only materials that are simply written and clearly articulated. With current adult education programs serving only 3 million people, the coalition wants to see investment in additional resources in adult education research, funding for high-quality professional development for adult education providers and the promotion of transitions from adult education to college academic and vocational study programs.