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VOL. 9 | NO. 8 | Saturday, February 20, 2016

Editorial: Mindset Must Change To Grow Minority Business

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Carolyn Hardy does not have any local customers.

That is despite all of the success she and her companies have had and her leadership in workforce training that helped keep Electrolux and City Brewing hiring local instead of importing workers.

She still cannot crack the code for doing business in Memphis instead of doing business from Memphis.

This is a story we have heard repeatedly in our coverage of minority business growth in a city where the racial minority is 63 percent of the city’s population and women are 52.5 percent.

That means black-owned businesses and women-owned businesses in their collective futures are tied as never before to the city’s overall economic health and vitality.

There are renewed efforts to break through what is generously described in some quarters as a reluctance to make new business connections and consider new relationships that will benefit the city as well as a bottom line.

You cannot help but also note the presence of a healthy skepticism that much of the force of that effort could still be blunted by calls for studies and new directories and information portals. And let’s not forget workshops and meetings.

Don’t get us wrong. It is important to measure where the dollars are spent and to be specific in that measurement. But that shouldn’t prevent us from moving now on the private and government fronts with such abysmally low numbers. It’s not like we are in any danger of overcompensating in the other direction.

The alternative is a deal-by-deal intervention.

We know what that intervention looks like.

It does nothing to scale minority business growth across the board on a larger scale.

We need a mindset, not a deal here and a deal there that replaces one group of people you need to know with another. There shouldn’t be a funnel or a line through a narrow checkpoint.

Let’s also not turn this into a competition among black-owned local business, women-owned local business and Hispanic-owned business.

To pit one against the other is another diversion.

The issue for civic leaders is how to break through what appears to be a habit in some instances, a matter of a comfort level in others and prejudice in still other instances.

Perhaps Carolyn Hardy is right – a 5 percent level of minority business participation establishes the necessary momentum in which “the rest will take care of itself.”

Already in the current economic environment in which some measure of recovery has at last come to our city, we see new business leaders including those at Crosstown Concourse making an effort that extends not just to the construction process but to the surrounding Klondike area once the concourse is open.

We can do this. We have to do this for our prosperity and a stable economic base on which to build a better and more inclusive city.

That’s not pie in the sky. That’s basic good business sense.

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