The National Minority Business Council Inc. established an Emerging Enterprise Investment Committee to target investment in minority, women-owned and inner-city enterprises. John F. Robinson, NMBC’s president and CEO, said the committee is another step toward taking M/WBEs public by providing them with the capital they need to grow. The committee comprises 12 major equity providers who will invest from $250,000 to $10 million in qualified, U.S.-based M/WBEs and inner-city enterprises. The providers include Cordova Ventures, Smart & Williams L.L.C.; I.C.V. Capital Partners; Ironwood Equity; StarVest Partners; and The New York City Investment Fund.
Next Generation Housing
U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer un-veiled a “Next Generation Housing Zones” plan to make housing more accessible to suburban New York’s middle-income workers and families and stem the brain drain from those areas. The plan would bring federal tax breaks and employer assistance to high-cost areas like Westchester and Rockland counties. Westchester, whose median housing price has increased 67 percent since 2001 while median household incomes rose 13 percent, lost 61,668 people between the ages of 20 and 34 from 1995 to 2005, a 28 percent decline. Rockland, whose median housing price jumped 80 percent since 2001 while the median household income increased 16 percent, lost 16,735 people between the ages of 20 and 34 from 1995 to 2005, a 26 percent decline.
Residential real estate brokerage NRT Inc. and the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) launched a mandatory training program to promote fair housing practices across the country, beginning in New York City and the mid-Atlantic region. NRT sales associates will be certified upon completion of the program, and each will sign the NRT Fair Housing Pledge, which commits each to providing equal professional services to any prospective client, customer, or resident of any community. The Corcoran Group, an NRT company and New York City’s largest residential real estate brokerage, in October rolled out the training program to its 2,500 sales associates.
Identity Theft Laws
New Yorkers may now freeze their credit reports at the three major reporting agencies, effectively stopping identity thieves from opening charge accounts or loans in their names. Within five days after freezing your credit information—by sending a certified or overnight courier letter to Trans Union, Experian and Equifax—no one can get new credit in your name, including you, until you lift the freeze. Another new state law requires businesses to properly dispose of records containing personal information or risk $5,000 fines. A third new measure prohibits the deceptive online solicitation of personal information called “phishing.” Affected Web businesses, nonprofit groups and the state attorney general can bring civil actions against the scam artists.
Small Business Contracts
The American Small Business League, the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Com-merce and other small business groups created a scorecard on actions by Congress to address problems facing small firms. The scorecard (www.uswcc.org/scorecard ) covers nine votes held during the 109th Congress that were specifically geared toward assisting small businesses. It shows that most of the legislation failed to pass and notes that lawmakers failed to produce legislation to address the annual diversion of between $50 billion and $100 billion in federal small business contracts to corporate giants like Lockheed, Boeing, General Dynamics, Northrop Grum-man, Wal-Mart and Rolls-Royce.
Auto workers facing layoffs in Georgia, Michigan, Minnesota, Mis-souri and Ohio will be able to access $3,000 a year to pay for retraining under a new Labor Department program. The program targets job reductions and plant closures announced by General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. Displaced workers will be able to access the $3,000 career advancement accounts through their state work force offices or the Labor Department’s One-Stop Career Centers across the country to pay for tuition, books and fees for retraining in sectors such as life sciences, biotechnology and health care.
With more African-Americans than ever on the waiting list for an organ transplant, a survey commissioned by The Links Inc. finds that 49 percent of African-Americans want their organs donated upon death, 80 percent consider saving lives the top reason for becoming an organ donor, but 56 percent have not talked to their families about it—a key step to becoming an organ donor. The survey also found that African-American families are more than twice as likely (91 percent versus 43 percent) to donate family members’ organs upon their death if they know of their relative’s wish to be an organ donor.
Honeywell International named Howard University the inaugural site for the United States launch of the Honeywell-Nobel Laureate Lecture Series, the centerpiece of a global education initiative to connect students across the globe with Nobel Prize winners in chemistry and physics. Howard is one of 11 universities worldwide selected to participate in the multiyear initiative, which combines on-campus events, interactive Web content and broadcast programming to link one generation of leading scientists with the development of the next.
Paycheck for Life
The National Caucus and Center on Black Aged (NCBA) became the 38th member of the coalition Americans for Secure Retirement, promoting policies to help all Americans maintain a steady income in retirement, especially at-risk groups such as minorities. NCBA data show that just 45 percent of all Black workers participated in employment-based retirement systems in 2002, compared to 53 percent of Caucasian workers. The coalition supports passage of the Retirement Security for Life Act (H.R. 819/S. 381), which calls for a tax incentive available to any retiree to encourage investment of some of their individual after-tax savings in retirement vehicles such as annuities that provide a guaranteed lifetime income.
Graduate students at the University of Stellenbosch in Cape Town, South Africa, for the first time competed for and won the $15,000 first prize in scholarships in the National Black M.B.A. Association’s National Student Case Competition. Hampton University and the University of Georgia received second- and third-place awards, respectively. M.B.A. students from nearly 30 U.S. business schools participated in the annual competition, which is sponsored by the DaimlerChrysler Corp. Fund and held during the association’s annual conference. The teams developed solutions to meet global business challenges while competing for scholarship awards totaling $35,000.
Ethiopia vs. Starbucks
The Ethiopian government, Starbucks Corp. and the National Coffee Associ-ation of the U.S.A. are wrangling over whether the coffee names Yirgacheffe, Sidamo and Harar belong to Ethiopia or can be used by anyone without restrictions. Ethiopia is simultaneously trying to secure the rights to the three coffee names via the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. It has succeeded in its attempt to trademark the name Yirgacheffe, but a final decision has not been made on the other two. The National Coffee Associ-ation of the U.S.A., of which Starbucks is a member, has filed protests arguing that the names are generic.
Canadian whiskey maker Crown Royal says it has renovated 11 barbershops since the launch of its Barbershop Program in 2005 and plans to refurbish 12 more by June. Part of a marketing effort aimed at African-Americans, the program has refurbished barbershops in such major cities as Chicago, Houston, New York and Philadelphia with custom barber chairs, flat-screen televisions, neon lighting and a fresh coat of paint featuring Crown Royal’s signature colors—purple and gold.