University Offers Aid for Companies

Article excerpt

Langston University's School of Business has proved to be not only an education source for young African-American students planning a business career, but also a source of information and assistance to those already in the workforce.

Langston is the headquarters for the National Institute for the Study of Minority Enterprise, a think tank created in 1990 after nine years of research on minority enterprise, according to Dr. Calvin Hall, dean of the business school at Langston.

The institute acts as a clearinghouse of information on minority business which it shares by computer with other colleges, like the University of Georgia in Athens and Alabama State University in Montgomery. It also serves as an umbrella organization under which operate some other some entities on campus, such as the Small Business Development Center and the Center for Telecommunications.

Langston is one of only three Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the country to have a Small Business Development Center. Among the center's activities are research on minority enterprise, technical assistance and information on international trade, finance, joint ventures, acquisitions and mergers.

Things have changed considerably since the early 20th century, when Tulsa was known as "Black Wall Street" for its large number of black-owned firms and strong minority business community. Robert Allen, director of the Small Business Development Center, said a recent U.S. Department of Commerce study placed Oklahoma at 41 out of the 50 states for number of black businesses. There are approximately 3,500 African-American owned firms in the state, he said.

Minority companies today are plagued with many of the same problems which have always faced them, Allen said, such as a lack of access to capital _ particularly for smaller firms which may need a smaller loan than traditional financial institutions normally handle _ as well as racism and being judged by a different set of rules than those applied to white businesses.

Those problems have escalated, though, as the scope of business becomes more international every day, he said. In today's desegregated society, African-American firms are having to compete not only with white businesses or other minority businesses in the U.S., but with companies abroad as well.

Yet, Allen emphasized that the center doesn't merely identify obstacles facing minority businesses, it gives assistance in ways to overcome those obstacles. …