Monday, May 29, 2017

EYE ON BUSINESS: Resist distractions, focus on real issues

While African-Americans obsess over a racial masquerade, key matters of commerce go sadly unnoticed.

BY ERNEST FOUNTAIN

Ernest Fountain is CEO of New Ventures Capital Development in Las Vegas.

While Black America has spent an inordinate amount of time and energy discussing the case of a white woman trying to be black, economic issues that have long-term effects on the black business sector are being overlooked.

First: Why are black people so upset about a woman trying to emulate blackness? In their attempt to embrace black culture in different  periods of history, many white Americans have sought fuller lips, deeper tans and larger butts. Many of them speak our language and emulate our dancing. This is nothing new, and neither is the inverse. You don’t have to be black to be concerned about the condition of black people or the human race in general. Many people have died fighting for the rights of other groups, simply due to the gift of God’s love! So let’s stop debating about this nonsense and focus on the real.

On June 16, the U.S. Department of Treasury approved $3.5 billion in New Market Tax Credits to 76 firms across the country — providing capital to businesses located in low-income communities, businesses owned by minorities and businesses located in rural areas. In the 12 rounds to date, the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund has made 912 allocation awards totaling $43.5 billion in tax credit authority — including $3 billion in Recovery Act awards and $1 billion set aside specifically for recovery and redevelopment in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Through fiscal year 2014, a total of $35.3 billion in New Markets Tax Credits has been invested in low-income communities since the program’s inception.

Of the 76 firms awarded, six of the allocates (or 7.9 percent) are minority-owned or -controlled entities. They received allocations totaling $165 million. Now this is where our focus should be! You would think that our economic condition would be improving after $43.5 billion spent on a program targeting our communities. It has not, and one of the major reasons is that out of the 912 firms allocated awards under the program, only 10 have been black-owned.

The other reason is that the funds are mostly being used to lure large white firms into these low-income areas, with no funding provided to mom-and-pop small businesses that have long been the cornerstone of credit and employment in those communities. These larger businesses relocate into those communities and then destroy the mom-and-pop businesses — through pricing advantages secured through their capacity to purchase at a much higher volume, along with other business factors. This is just another area where black elected officials fail the African-American community due to their lack of economic savvy. They are impressed when these firms enter the community, not realizing the longterm economic impact on the black businesses already domiciled in the area.

Also on June 16, the House of Representatives passed a significant bilateral trade agreement between Africa and the United States. AGOA — the African Growth and Opportunity Act — will provide strong incentives to increase importing and exporting opportunities that will create numerous jobs on both sides. By the time it is signed into law, it is expected to include a free trade agreement with no taxes associated with trade activity.

America represents 5% of the world’s population; therefore, 95% of the marketplace is outside of this country. We should be positioning ourselves to take advantage of the businesses opportunities in Africa. This is one of the fastest-growing emerging markets, with several individual countries experiencing the highest rates of economic growth anywhere in the world. The Corporate Council of Africa — which consists of Walmart, Microsoft, Coca- Cola, Pepsi, Caterpillar, General Electric, Bank of America, Chevron and many others — is doing just that, while we who are last in every economic category stay focused on foolishness.

Wake up and stop being tossed to and fro by the media, which is designed to distract us from the real!

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