(NNPA)—The Obama administration recently launched innovative Promise Zones in five U.S. cities, committed the government to programmatic efforts to increase support for those affected by unemployment, and began efforts to address income inequality among American wage earners. We are hopeful that these latest programs begin to move the needle in a substantive way.
Of course, U.S. Black Chambers, Inc. believes that the shortest route to addressing Black unemployment is by improving opportunities to grow America’s 2 million Black-owned businesses. In fact, if each of these businesses was able to hire just one employee, it would solve Black unemployment overnight. While this may seem to be a simplistic approach to problem-solving, it is a great illustration of what is achievable by concentrating our organization’s efforts on federal, state and local procurement practices that fail to provide equitable opportunity for Black-owned businesses.
We have spent countless hours at the White House, engaging the U.S. Small Business Administration through its Council on Underserved Communities and working through the efforts of the House and Senate Committees on Small Business. We’ve watched federal procurement contracts with African-American suppliers and contractors shrink. While in Texas recently, I learned that the huge state with its booming economy spent less than 2 percent of its contract awards with Black businesses. Reports from California, Pennsylvania, Louisiana and other states indicate that Texas is not alone in shortchanging opportunity for Black businesses.