|December 16, 2006
By Arthur J. Gass, President
The Black Chamber of Commerce of Lake County will be the leading agency to partner with existing business entities to
develop a comprehensive strategic initiative to turn this tide of poverty, at minimum, to a level of self sufficiency.
The Black Chamber of Commerce of Lake County is organized
to achieve the two objectives:
1) Preserving the competitive enterprise system of business by:
• creating a better understanding and appreciation of the
importance of business people and a concern for their problems;
• educating the business community and representing them in
city, county, state and national legislative and political affairs;
• preventing or addressing controversies which are detrimental
to expansion and growth of business and the community
• creating a greater appreciation of the value of investment of
substance and self on behalf of the interests of competitive
2) Promoting business and community development growth by:
• promoting economic programs designed to strengthen and
expand the income potential of all member businesses in
• promoting programs of civic, social and cultural nature
which are designed to increase the functional and image
of the community
• discovering and correcting abuses which prevent the
promotion of business expansion and community growth.
The problem grows worse each day. The government has spent an immeasurable amount of dollars trying to reverse the
trend, but the cycle continues to spiral upward. To compliment their efforts they have concluded that by using faith-based
agencies (the local churches) as a channel to send even more money, that somehow this will reverse this spiral of social
While I can appreciate the government’s effort, social programs will not solve the economic and social ills within the inner
cites. If we would be earnest with our analysis and speak the truth, these programs have only been a spoon of water on
this vast fire that is burning out of control.
As the Black Chamber of Commerce of Lake County, we want to take the initiative and lead the community into the realm of
inclusion in economic development. I believe we can no longer sit by and blame others for our plight. We must take the lead
and lead our people to economic prosperity just as we took the lead and led them too social acceptance in society
during the era of the civil rights movement.
Just as we did then, we do now, we need help, and I believe people will
be more incline to help us when they see us taking the initiative to do something yourself. So that begs the question:
How Do we really grow Minority owned Businesses so they can be an intricate part of
As a minority community, we must position ourselves with the pool of
talent, and the consortium of minority owned businesses to take advantage of this interest of economic motivation as an
opportunity for economic development. In other words, we must prepare ourselves to be included in mainstream economic
As a competitive community within Lake County, the minority community must be a part of this healthy and vibrant economic
structure that is flourishing in this wealthy county. We must cultivate those individuals
with the leadership skills as leaders, to champion the cause for the
sharing of the wealth.
Every business enterprise must have the flexibility to change its course when the hand writing of failure is on the wall. Any
competitive community must realize that their minority business programs must be sustainable, must be market driven and
increase overall community capacity.
The success factors, that must drive minority business development is:
1. Select the Right Target Business – Our focus must be on the minority businesses that display the capability to grow.
Remember, those businesses that grow are the ones that will create jobs, they will create wealth and inspire more
businesses that have the potential to grow also. We must
seek out those individuals with a track record of success, a growth orientation and a business that provides value. The
development of these growth-oriented businesses will create the environment for more
successful minority businesses.
2. Develop Realistic Expectations – The model for growing sizable
minority businesses must be on quality and growth opportunity, not
quantity. The Mission of any business must be clear and expectations must be at a reasonable level. Your budgeted goals
must be realistic simply because you will commit to there achievement. Growing any business is a focus on the realistic
potential to grow, create jobs, wealth.
3. Build Investment Strategies – In business the two things that are
1.) Deals take longer to happen than you anticipate and
2.) business grows slower than you expect.
4. Promote, Align and Enforce Core Business Principles – Businesses that demand a significant amount of Research &
Development or demand an economy of scale that will take a finite time to create are often good candidates for subsidies.
Always remember, that business is fundamentally, based on both the creation of value and a business model, which are
designed to generate profits. If there is no value created and no profits generated, there is no reason to invest in that
5. Make a Paradigm Shift from Social to Economic - We do not need leaders who bring a social agenda, a social
background, or social thinking. The outcomes will look like welfare programs more than economic development initiatives.
The motivation should and must be economic and a forum for the community to prosper together. With this motivation, it will
be easy to attract the interest of important stake-holders if they have a clear, compelling and profit reason to be interested.
6. Do Not Misdiagnose - Although access to capital, access to markets and access to technical assistance are critical areas
and can be treated with a strategic program, the root cause to the problem of success is credibility and actionable
relationships or networking. It’s not always what you know, but it’s who you know. If you are going to run with the big dogs,
you must prepare for this marathon.
7. Ignore the Skeptics – There is a mind-set that is within both communities and must be addressed and corrected. The
historical baggage of race in our country has embedded in much of Black-America’s minds that blacks want trust each other
and want help one another. For the most part, the white communities have created a sense that no matter what we do, we
will never make this situation better. The premise for this is that you have always viewed results from fail social agendas and
not investment strategies. Why do we promote myths that are meaningless?
The bottom-line is: if we are going to accelerate the growth of the most accelerate-able minority businesses for the purpose
of building the economic capacity of the community, they must be lead by people with the experience and the expertise to
make that happen.
To change the way we do minority business development in our current environment takes three key elements:
1. A strong leader with vision of the next evolution of race and business in this county. Someone needs to bring the
various stakeholders together and garner the support, set the new tempo and create the bold new vision that includes
every square mile and every segment of the population in the economic development. As the Black Chamber of Commerce of
Lake County we want to earn that spot. As the euphoria is building all across this nation with the formation of Black
Chambers we must market our successes.
We have networks established on the State and National levels to expand and enhance this effort.
2. A shift in thinking, conversion and action from a social construct to investment. Until communities treat minority
business as an investment it will struggle to make the type of progress needed to keep a community competitive. Minority
Owned Businesses must be seen as equally important as other critical community investments.
3. Minority business development needs a coordinated plan. Everything we care about has a plan on how we will get it
done. Not only does the coordinated plan insure that we get it done, it serves as a tool how we will measure success and
how we will continue to make it better. Competitive communities of the future will demonstrate early, the reality of a new
way of looking at the growth of minority businesses by creating a plan to make it work.
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