Date: Tuesday, February 22, 2011, 6:09 am By: Michael H. Cottman, BlackAmericaWeb.com
President Barack Obama will travel to Cleveland Tuesday to listen to small business owners – some of them African-Americans – who have ideas for creating jobs at a time when the black unemployment rate is 15.8 percent, double the rate of white citizens.
Obama will attend “Winning the Future Forum on Small Business” in association with Cleveland State University, where the president and his economic team will hear directly from business leaders and small business owners.
The president has made it clear that his number-one priority is job creation, and he’s also indicated that he is willing to listen to as many sound ideas as possible. Obama has been traveling outside of Washington about once a week as he seeks to promote the competitiveness agenda he outlined in last month’s State of the Union address.
The decline of big cities like Detroit and Cincinnati are particularly evident in Cleveland, where jobs for African-Americans are scarce, and only one of out four adults have a car. Cleveland, where major sections of the city are predominantly black, is also listed as America’s fastest-declining major city not hit by a natural disaster.
Behind the scenes, the Obama administration is working to address the jobless dilemma – especially in black communities across the country, where unemployment is skyrocketing. The jobless rate among black men is now a stunning 21 percent.
“We need to do better,” Valerie Jarrett, senior White House advisor, told a group of black journalists recently. “We all know that so many people of color are working in small businesses, and they’re really the economic engines of our country, so creating an incentive to help them grow and continuing to support them is the president’s priority.”
Jarrett said the Small Business Administration has created a new advisory council chaired by Cathy Hughes, chairperson and founder of Radio One Inc. and TV One, “to advise us on how we can provide services to underserved communities.” Jarrett also said the SBA will commit $1 billion to invest capitol in underserved communities.
In a conference call with journalists last week, SBA Administrator Karen Mills said entrepreneurs are at the heart of America’s ability to compete and stimulate the economy.
“The entrepreneurial spirit in America is one of our greatest assets, and the small business owners who grow these fast-growing companies actually create the majority of these jobs,” Mills said. “So, on the president’s talk in the State of the Union about out-competing the rest of the world, out-innovating, out-building and out-educating, he is talking about supporting entrepreneurs.”
Mills said the administration allocated $41 billion for entrepreneurs and small business owners through the Recovery Act and the Small Business Jobs Act.
“We have put out 17 tax cuts, which is cash in the hands of small business owners – and there is nothing small business owners like better or could do more with than cash in their pockets from tax cuts,” she said.
Obama’s visit to Cleveland comes as the U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Business Owners released a report last week that said “from 2002 to 2007, the number of black-owned businesses increased by 60.5 percent to 1.9 million – more than triple the national rate of 18.0 percent.”
In addition, black-owned businesses’ revenue increased to $137.5 billion (a 55 percent increase) between 2002 and 2007. These businesses employed 921,032 workers in 2007 (an increase of 22 percent from 2002), and their payrolls totaled $23.9 billion (an increase of 36 percent), according Bill Bostic, the Census Bureau’s associate director for Economic Programs.
According to the data, Bostic said, nearly four in 10 black-owned businesses operated in health care and social assistance; and repair, maintenance, personal and laundry services.
“Black-owned businesses continued to be one of the fastest growing segments of our economy, showing rapid growth in both the number of businesses and total sales during this time period,” Census Bureau Deputy Director Thomas Mesenbourg, told Richard Prince, who writes a diversity column for the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education.
While it’s good news that black businesses are thriving, many of these companies are small operations that cannot afford to hire the thousands – and perhaps millions – of African-Americans who are currently searching for employment. And so Obama, correctly, will visit Cleveland this week looking for innovative ideas to expand the workforce.
In the president’s weekly address to the nation, Obama said the United States needs the best trained and best skilled workforce in the world to win the global competition for new jobs and industries. Obama added that over the next 10 years, nearly half of all new jobs will require education beyond high school.
“All across America, there are innovators and entrepreneurs who are trying…to get a small business of their own off the ground,” Obama said. “I’ll be meeting with some of these men and women in Cleveland to get ideas about what we can do to help their companies grow and create jobs.