A MESSAGE FROM THE CHAIR
-from a recent BBJ article
First let me say that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the entire Nation economically and indiscriminately. Some industries will thrive, while others may not survive. All business owners are concerned about the future of their business, maintaining their households, and the well-being of their family, employees, friends and colleagues. We all have that in common.
Will the powers to be maintain the status quo, or recognize what is broken within the economies of scale of large corporations and take this opportunity to make the needed changes in economic policy to level the playing field for businesses with fewer than 500 employees – the majority of which are black-owned businesses? Black-owned businesses don’t fit into a “one-size-fits-all” mold. We are sole proprietors, independent contractors, LLCs and S Corporations, and employers with 2-50 and more than 100 employees. The one thing that has become abundantly clear with the COVID-19 pandemic, and that is that the banking system is not designed to address the access to capital needs of smaller black-owned businesses and disadvantaged communities. The COVID-19 Pandemic did not cause this inequality, but it certainly amplified and magnified it. I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge our congressional leaders who stepped up in attempts to right this wrong in the face of the pandemic. I regret that it took a pandemic of this magnitude for them to do so. I hope they are willing and able make transformative policy changes that level the economic playing field for black-owned businesses endeavoring to support our families, develop our communities, employ citizens who live in the community, and allow black-owned businesses to become equal players in driving the local and national economy.
The biggest economic obstacle facing black-owned businesses is the lack of opportunity to participate equally in local business opportunities. Overall, the local leadership has not established public private partnerships among local black business owners that support local business, economic and community development.
How can a new wave of city leadership facilitate more growth and success for black-owned businesses? By promoting public-private partnerships with black-owned businesses, especially on community development projects – establish rules that prime contractors must contract with local black-owned businesses, similar to the local hire requirement. Also, black owned businesses are grouped in with other minorities (i.e., LGBTQ, white females, Latino, and others) when it comes to local and state procurement goals. There is no evidence that support the participation of black-owned businesses on city and state procurements. City and state leadership could facilitate more growth and success for black-owned businesses if they created procurement systems that identify qualified black businesses to match with opportunities and track success with a breakdown of minority groups to determine disparity within the MBE system.
Debra Keller-Greene, Chairwoman
Greater Baltimore Black Chamber of Commerce