Thousands Converge for Nation's Largest Black Entrepreneurs Conference By Gordon Jackson, Tuesday, May 31, 2005 Edited for Spacing The conference marked two milestones. It was the 10th straight year for the event and the 35th year of existence for Black America's leading business publication.
How do African Americans make full use of its $723 billion spending power (according to the Census Bureau of Labor and Statistics)? How does the community, as well as Black individuals, acquire the wealth needed to move its people forward? Is there responsibility to go along with prosperity? Critical financially based questions and issues were addressed at the Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Conference, held last week at the Wyndham Anatole Hotel in Dallas for the second consecutive year. The conference marked two milestones.
It was the 10th straight year for the event and the 35th year of existence for Black America's leading business publication. Some of the country's top Black entrepreneurs were honored and showcased, while thousands of emerging business owners benefited from more valuable knowledge they can use to grow their respective enterprises. Under the theme: Seasons of Change: Taking Risks, Embracing Opportunities, the seminars held throughout the conference were geared toward helping business owners reduce their risks while enhancing their business skills. A secondary objective of the conference was to help a strong core of the African American community change their mindset on how they look money, so that they change their spending habits for the better. We've just flat run out of excuses for not doing it on our own, said Earl Graves Sr., Publisher and CEO of Black Enterprise magazine, during his State of Black Business speech that opened the conference. Black Enterprise annually chronicles and lists the top Black-owned businesses in the country. In spite of those businesses growing every year in revenue, Graves said it's not reflective of the African American community as a whole. The greater economic outlook is as bad as it has been the past two decades, said Graves.
The odds do not stack in our favor. There still remains a wide disparity between the rich and the poor. Graves said that 42 percent of African Americans born in the lower economic rung are not expected to rise above that level for the rest of their lives. A key to curbing that trend is for successful middle-class Blacks to be mainstream with integrity and to give back to the community. If we are to make a difference in people's lives, if African Americans are going to weather the seasons of change and come out winners, then our personal involvement isn't an option, it's a requirement, said Graves. It was a strong and independent African American business community that financed Dr. King and the civil rights movement and elected the first wave of African American mayors, congressional representatives and that made it possible for Jesse Jackson to run for president twice.
Graves touched on other issues, calling the comments from Mexico president Vicente Fox racist when he said that Mexicans are willing to take jobs Blacks are not. He encouraged those planning to vacation in Mexico to switch to a Caribbean country. Such values and other recommendations were also stated during the town hall meeting, titled The Black Wealth Crisis: An Agenda for Closing the Wealth Gap. Lloyd Ward, chairman of Body Block Nutrition Systems, said Blacks must change the conversation from how much money one makes to how much net worth one has. We need to assure that our income is greater than our expenses, and we need to work toward owning assets, said Ward. It isn't about the money you make, it's about what you accumulate.
Former Democratic New York congressman Floyd Flake, pastor of Allen AME Church in New York, heavily emphasized setting goals for homeownership as a person's first valuable asset, but gave an example to how some people do not have their priorities straight. If I got a car with those expensive spinning (hubcap) wheels and I'm paying rent, that makes no sense, Flake pointed out. Both Flake and former NAACP President Kweisi Mfume, now running for a Senate seat in Maryland, highly recommended forming investment clubs and investing in real estate as a couple of measure to take. We're in such a consumer-driven society, said Mfume. We're not taught to save, we're taught to spend.
We’ve got to find a way to become foot soldiers and carry this message to the entire community. Not to be outdone by the adult peers, the Kidpreneurs and Teenpreneurs phase of the conference showcased the business savvy of youth 17 and under. Other seminars focused on health and wellness, securing multi-million dollar contracts, financial and legal strategies, surviving business adversity and technology solutions. It (conference) was really good, it impacted me in so many ways, said Gloria Alexander, executive director and founder of Dallas-based Gotcha! Second Chance, Inc., a job placement firm for ex-offenders. It got me to get up and do other things. I really needed a pull.
Syreeta was a vendor at the Business-to-Business Expo to promote her company, McDaniel Consulting of Dallas, which provides business-planning solutions for entrepreneurs. "As an entrepreneur since 2001, I considered this my coming out party on a national level," said [McDaniel]. "I met several people with whom I have an opportunity to help them plan their business."
Dallas is scheduled to hold the conference at least one more year. Once again, Dallas obviously sets well for the Black Enterprise team, said Reginald Gates, President of the Dallas Black Chamber of Commerce. We saw more involvement from our local people this year than last year. Gates didn't have exact numbers readily available, but speculated that several millions dollars were pumped into the Dallas economy. One of the conference events, the Spot Bid Fair, issued up to $5 million in contracts to minority-owned businesses based in Texas. We’re looking for new ways to even more increase local involvement next year, said Gates. The conference ended with a plush black-tie gala, where both small and major Black business owners were honored. These are the Academy Awards and this is my Oscar, said Gregory Jackson of Prestige Automotive in Detroit, Michigan.
He was awarded Black Enterprise's Auto Dealer of the Year. His operation was the first African American auto dealership chain to surpass $1 billion in revenue. JoAnn Price and Laurence Morse of Fairview Capital in Farmington Massachusetts were named Financial Company of the Year, Russell Wright of Dimensions International in Washington D.C. earned Company of the Year and Eugene Morris of E. Morris Communications, Inc. in Chicago was named Advertising Agency of the Year. Small businesses were also recognized. Lisa Price of Carol's Daughter, Inc. was named Emerging Company of the Year. Dana Powell and Shannon Bonner of BridesNoir magazine received the Rising Star Award. Dr. John Crews and Dr. Derron Simon of Mid-Atlantic Surgical Associates, Inc. were named Business Innovator of the Year and Najee Green of Techmaster Computer Works given the Teenpreneur Award. Black Enterprise's most prestigious award, the A.G. Gaston Lifetime Achievement Award, went to Alden J. McDonald, Jr., President and CEO of Liberty Bank & Trust in New Orleans. The Champion Award went posthumously to former Atlanta mayor Maynard Jackson.