President Obama's Big Plan for Business: The Administration Uses a Broad-Based Approach to Lift All Entrepreneurial Boats. Have Its Policies Benefitted Black Business?
Dingle, Derek T., Black Enterprise
GENE HALE IS A TRUE BELIEVER IN PRESIDENT BARACK Obama's approach to create an economy that's "built to last" with its special focus on supporting small-and medium-sized companies as engines for job creation and industrial innovation,
In fact, the CEO of Gardena, California-based G&C Equipment Corp. (No. 34 on the BE INDUSTRIAL/SERVICE COMPANIES list with $100 million in revenues), stresses that prime beneficiaries of the administration's financing and contracting programs have been and will continue to be the nation's 1.9 million black-owned businesses. "I think that the president has put in place some policies for the future, not just for the next two or three years, that will impact African American businesses and small businesses across the country," asserts Hale. "Because of President Obama's policies through the Small Business Administration, some small businesses have been able to secure working capital loans."
Obama's understanding of the need for businesses to gain access to capital as well as his crafting of opportunities through stimulus-driven construction projects, Hale says, has had a positive impact on larger companies like G&C, giving his customers the wherewithal to purchase construction supplies. Hale also embraces Obama's vision of entrepreneurs expanding into advanced manufacturing, renewable energy, and global trade. As chair of the Small/Medium Enterprise Committee of the President's Export Council, he applauds the SBA's STEP (State Trade and Export Promotion) grant program and the Commerce Department's collaboration with the Export/Import Bank to help small and minority companies gain credit and "navigate the system."
As Obama goes into full campaign mode, he must cite such examples to make his case to black entrepreneurs that his policies will move their companies forward in the next economy. That message is important to scores of African American entrepreneurs we interviewed for this article. The overwhelming majority maintain that his leadership in resurrecting the economy, encouraging business innovation, and passing a historic healthcare reform package, among other accomplishments, will earn their support come November. Some, however, want clarity on his second-term agenda and whether it will include targeted programs for minority businesses.
CREATING AN ENVIRONMENT OF INCLUSION
In his first term, Obama continued to support programs such as the SBA's 8(a), New Markets Initiatives, and HUB (Historically Underutilized Business) Zone that directly benefit black and minority firms. However, the president stressed his initiatives sufficiently lift all entrepreneurial ships. In an exclusive interview with BLACK ENTERPRISE, he maintains: "I'm not the president of black America. I'm the president of the United States of America ... I'll put my track record up against anybody in terms of putting in place broad-based programs that ultimately had a huge benefit for African American businesses."
As the administration came to power, its first priority was overhauling a battered and bruised economy, one in which black businesses suffered the harshest blows. Says Ron Busby, president of U.S. Black Chamber Inc., an association of more than 100 business organizations: "The entire economy was headed down the tubes when the president took office so there's no question that black-owned businesses were struggling, too. We probably won't know the true, final answer for a couple of years, but the early signs are positive."
From the beginning, it has been evident that Obama has made bolstering small business a key component of his massive economic agenda that included the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, which he inherited from the Bush administration; a $15 billion plan that increased SBA 7(a) and 504 Community development loan guarantees; gaining control and forcing the reorganization of General Motors and Chrysler; and enactment of the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that provided for, among other things, funding for highway and bridge construction as well as renewable energy and weatherization contracts. …