New York City’s small businesses saw a sharp drop in 2008 in the number of loans guaranteed by the government. Reps. Anthony Weiner of Queens and Nydia Velázquez of Brooklyn released data showing a nearly 40 percent drop of loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration in the budget year that ended in September. The total value of such loans — made by private companies but guaranteed by the government — dropped 18 percent compared to the previous year. The hardest hit borough was Queens, where businesses borrowed 45 percent less. Staten Island fared best with a 4 percent increase. Weiner and Velázquez said the government effort to ease the credit crunch should do more to focus on small companies.
International Business Directory
A Web edition of International Business in New York City: 2008 Directory, a joint project of the city’s Division for International Business; Commission for the United Nations, Consular Corps and Protocol; and the Weissman Center for International Business at Baruch College, can be accessed at www.nyc.gov/ibd. The directory lists 2,800 foreign-owned businesses, each with contact information, number of employees and the number of locations in the city. It also lists foreign consulates general, trade commissions, government investment offices, permanent missions to the United Nations and binational chambers of commerce.
Racial disparities between Blacks and whites still exist, despite political, social and economic advances by African-Americans. Statistics from the Census Bureau, National Center for Health Statistics and Bureau of Justice Statistics show that in 2007, 24.4 percent of Blacks had incomes below the poverty line, compared to 8.2 percent of whites; the median household income was $33,900 for Blacks and $54,900 for white households; 18.5 percent of Blacks 25 and older had college degrees compared to 31.8 percent of whites; and 19.2 percent of Blacks did not have health insurance compared to 10.4 percent of whites. In 2006, Black men had an incarceration rate of 3,042 per 100,000 residents against a rate of 487 per 100,000 for white men. In 2005, life expectancy at birth was 76.5 years for Black women and 69.5 years for Black men compared to 80.8 years for white women and 75.7 years for white men.
ICABA Media Holdings L.L.C., a new multimedia brand that seeks to identify, connect and activate accomplished Blacks around the world, launched in South Florida. ICABA unveiled an integrated marketing platform that includes a multifaceted Web site (www.icabaonline.com) with a social networking component, print directories and signature events. Jerome Hutchinson Jr., ICABA’s chief executive, says it offers online and offline networking opportunities to encourage a greater sense of interconnectivity and increase business opportunities for Blacks and provides a marketing vehicle to companies desiring an interactive relationship with affluent Black consumers.
Urban Television Venture
Robert L. Johnson, founder and chairman of The RLJ Companies, proposes a “content mall” as the broadcast model for his Urban Television L.L.C. Rather than traditional broadcast models where programming, content and advertising are solely controlled by the broadcast owner, programming ideas would be solicited from the creative/talent community, as well as major advertisers. Johnson has already contacted members of the African-American creative, editorial and entertainment community to inform them of the opportunity to participate in content, programming and ownership. Urban Television is awaiting Federal Communications Commission approval of licenses that will enable it to broadcast on a digital channel of ION stations in 42 markets.
Eleven African-American current and former employees of the largest food services provider in the world filed a federal-class action lawsuit in Philadelphia against Compass, Compass Group, P.L.C., Compass Group North America and Flik International Corp. (collectively, “Compass” or the “Company”) alleging race discrimination, harassment and unlawful retaliation. The plaintiffs say they were repeatedly subjected to racial slurs by their white supervisors, forced to work in the back by the kitchen, employed for lower positions only and were unfairly replaced by white workers. They are represented by Thompson, Wigdor & Gilly L.L.P.
Ad Industry Discrimination
Cyrus Mehri, the civil-rights lawyer behind several landmark racial discrimination lawsuits, including The Coca-Cola Co. and Texaco, is now targeting discrimination in the advertising business. His firm plans to issue a report on African-Americans in advertising, noting that the field lags in minority involvement and recently was dubbed by USA Today “a poster child for a dearth of diversity.” Mehri contends the industry has been on notice a long time, but just goes through the motions and allows a discriminatory climate to continue. Mehri won’t say whether he’s preparing a class-action suit against agencies, but even if he isn’t, he will likely leave the industry more diverse than he found it.
Choice Hotels Franchise
Choice Hotels International Inc. announced that Roberts Hotels Group L.L.C. is the company’s largest African-American franchisee, with Choice Hotels room inventory fast approaching the 1,000 mark. Roberts Hotels is also the largest African American-owned and -managed hotel group in the nation. The hotels group is just one of the businesses that comprise the Roberts Companies, owned by brothers Steven and Michael Roberts, and which also includes four television stations, a radio station, a cellular broadcast tower company, an aviation company and several residential and commercial real estate developments in St. Louis, Mo., and the Bahamas.
Hyundai Motor Co., the South Korean carmaker, plans to focus on developing the small-car market in growing countries as China, India, the Middle East, Africa and South America in 2009 because of weak demand in North America and Europe as a result of the global downturn. Hyundai’s sales and net profit declined in 2008 and the company lowered its sales target for the year. It did not specify a target for 2009. The small-car market offers better growth potential, as small cars are cheaper and more fuel efficient, it says. Along with affiliate Kia Motors Corp., Hyundai forms the world’s fifth-largest automotive group.
Mobile-phone solutions would be an ideal payment platform for vendors wishing to penetrate China’s massive emerging market, according to presenters at an American Express forum, “Open Global Doors,” in Shanghai, China. SmartPay’s CEO supported by American Express’ CEO suggest mobile-phone payments and other applications should play an important role in overcoming the difficulty of reaching the scattered Chinese market. With more than 600 million mobile-phone users in China, business networks built through such phones would provide efficient coverage of the market. SmartPay, China’s remote payment leader, launches payment services under the “Jieyin” brand.