ComebackTown is published by David Sher to begin a discussion on a more prosperous metro Birmingham.
Today’s guest blogger is Bob Dickerson. If you’d like to be a guest blogger, please click here.
If we close Birmingham’s racial wealth gap we all benefit.
If you’re black and you’re reading this then you know exactly what I mean by the racial wealth gap. If you’re white there’s a chance that you might not realize and worse, might not have ever focused on the problems that this gaping disparity cause.
The racial wealth gap
Perhaps you also haven’t considered whether there is any benefit to you to closing it. I hope I begin to change your mind.
Facts show that that Black America’s wealth pales in comparison to that of white America. Studies suggest that family net worth, the difference between assets and liabilities, is $6,000 on the average for blacks and $90,000 for whites. That is an astounding and discouraging difference to any fair minded person.
Why is there a racial wealth gap?
Let me remind us of some of the causes, factors that contributed and continue to contribute to the gap. Centuries of economic robbery and economic detours, Jim Crow laws, discrimination, housing codes, redlining, unequal pay and opportunity, lack of access, and could go on. I suppose that as you are reading this you may have reasons to add.
This piece is not intended to cast blame but rather issue a call to action because I am convinced that we can close the gap in Birmingham and the one of many strategies I’ll put forward here is to galvanize behind a community wide effort to grow the Black Business class.
Change is possible
Successful businesses create wealth. Pure and simple–Birmingham is creating millionaires who are small business owners but there are too few black companies benefiting from Birmingham’s thriving economy and emerging emphasis on supporting business development and, it is my belief the we can change that.
I’d estimate that the Birmingham Metropolitan area, which is over 25% black, produces about $100 billion in business revenue annually. Black companies, despite their efforts, generate less than 1% of that total.
I believe that a concerted community wide effort, established and executed publicly, supported by public policy and major stakeholders, with published goals and results can help us move the needle.
Concentrate on our 20 leading procurers
For example, if our 20 leading procurers of products and services committed to using their ingenuity to increase their spending with black businesses, the entire community and marketplace would benefit.
There are some examples, best practices if you would, from across the nation, however I’d like to think that Birmingham would look at them yes, but craft our own solution.
Birmingham protagonist of modern civil rights
In that this city served as the protagonist of the modern civil rights movement and was the incubator for the great A. G. Gaston and his enterprises, what better place than this to recognize the problems caused by wealth inequality and opportunity deficits and to do something about it.
The good thing about Birmingham is that we’re small enough, connected enough and hopefully cooperative enough to get this done. Is this ambitious? Yes! Is it doable? I believe so. Is it worth trying? Absolutely! Birmingham can be the national model and we should.
What will success look like?
Here’s a short list of the positive results, benefits I expect to come from this effort.
An increase in Black wealth as a result of entrepreneurial activity; increased employment, and keep in mind the fact that 80% of the people companies hire look like the owners. In a city our size we’d virtually eliminate unemployment and likely spur population growth making us the Magic City once again–increased consumption of durable goods and real estate, leading to stabilization of our local housing market and increasing values and equity. An increase in real estate value, especially in Birmingham’s neighborhoods, once again adds equity, increases net worth and starts to close the gap.
Progress in this as well as in any area wide initiative promotes a greater sense of pride, optimism, and enthusiasm. More opportunity also equals better schools, lower crime rates, a better Birmingham.
The bottom line for me is embodied in the theme we’ve promoted for years at our A. G. Gaston Conferences, “Economic Empowerment through Enterprise Development”. If we want to close the racial wealth gap in Birmingham, working to help start, grow, further develop Black Enterprise is a winning strategy.
Bob Dickerson is executive director of the Birmingham Business Resource Center and co-chair of the A.G. Gaston Conference. The A.G. Gaston Conference, February 12-13, will explore many of the issues presented in this piece.
David Sher is Co-Founder of AmSher Compassionate Collections. He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).
Invite David to speak to your group about a better Birmingham. firstname.lastname@example.org