Date: Feature Week of
ENTREPRENEURSHIP AND BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT:
Making A Difference in Black Communities
It is easily seen that if every member of the race should strive to make himself the most indispensable man in his community, and to be successful in business, however humble that business might be, he would contribute much towards smoothing the pathway of his own and future generations. – Booker T. Washington
Tuskegee, AL….To announce his plans to make the National Business League (NBL) “the nation’s largest and most effective economic development organization again,” NBL President W. Ronald Evans and his board came home to the place where the group was founded. Booker T. Washington started the NBL as the National Negro Business League in 1900 to promote “the commercial and financial needs of the Negro”.
“Almost 12 percent of whites in America are business owners, compared to just 3.6 percent of African Americans,” states Evans, “and we intend to change that”. The National Business League Evans is reconstructing, pre-dates the NAACP (1909) and the National Urban League (1910) and was Black Americans’ most effective development organization during the first years of the early 20th Century.
Booker T. Washington and the NBL led blacks out of slavery into a flourishing entrepreneurial- and- middle-class. Evans believes that with African Americans’ current economic plight, the NBL is today’s best-suited organization to continue the historical and philosophical perspectives of Washington; focusing on entrepreneurship and business development as the best means for African Americans to enjoy economic and political parity. The new NBL board believes they can lead more African American individuals, organizations, and institutions toward empowerment through knowledge acquisition and networking toward entrepreneurship. “These are key ingredients to a ‘whole-community moves up’ approach to economic development”, says Evans.
As a co-sponsor for Tuskegee University’s 9th Annual Booker T. Washington Economic Development Summit, the NBL joined with community-based organizations, other universities, government and private sector officials in partnerships and to design strategies for wealth creation and small business growth and development. The BTW Economic Development Summit was coordinated by Ms. Velma Blackwell, Administrator of Tuskegee University’s Cooperative Extension Program. The Summit focused on programs, initiatives, and legislation to promote expansion of more gross receipts and profits for firms and small businesses. To help black youth and community leaders grasp the effects of business as a vehicle for community development, Summit programs also emphasized acquisition and better management of endowment assets for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and community-based organizations. “It’s all about wealth creation and economic independence in our communities through entrepreneurship and business development,” said Blackwell. Workshops included: Federal Government Procurement, Business Financing, Youth Entrepreneurship, Faith-Based Initiative Funding, and International Trade with Africa, Endowment Management, MBDA Strategic Growth Initiative, and SBA Loan Matchmaking as ways to increase the numbers of 21st Century blacks in viable businesses.
A long-time Republican activist and current Presidential appointee, Evans’ influence gained the Summit participation of Bush Administration African-American appointees: Ronald Langston, National Director of the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) and Allegra McCullough, Associate Deputy Administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA). Robert Wright, a major player in the Bush Administration and previous Republican White Houses, was presented an “Excellence in Entrepreneurship” award for the national impact his $130 million Dimensions International, Inc. is making in employment and technology advancement. The award is given each year by the Summit to African Americans whose contributions in the business world contribute significantly to Black economic development and opportunities for the business, persons they employ and communities they serve.
Evans says that although the NBL traditionally has had Republican roots, it is non-partisan and he’s building the organization across the nation, “from the grass-roots up”. “We will help you organize a chapter in your city and help you build it”, says Evans. To contact the NBL, call (202) 726-9100, or reach them at Suite 12, 6230 3rd Street, Northwest, Washington, D.C. 20012.
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