Some experts are convinced cultivating a fertile environment for small businesses, including minority- and women-owned enterprises, could be an economic engine for the region.
Jennifer J. Parker is founder and president of the Black Capital Network and heads Jackson Parker Communications. She has been involved in efforts to empower businesses. She sat down with The Buffalo News' Brian Meyer for the weekly "In Focus" interview series.
Here is a summary of some of the issues discussed. Watch the full seven-minute interview at BuffaloNews.com/video.
Meyer: Is it pie-in-the-sky to suggest that Buffalo could become a mecca for minority- and women-owned businesses?
Parker: "I have always thought from the time I moved from North Carolina about 20 years ago that Buffalo was a frontier, that Buffalo had one of the greatest assets - the diversity that we have. We can build on that. And it's even more diverse now with our immigrant population, which happens to be very [entrepreneurial]. I believe now more than ever that Buffalo can be and will be a mecca for small-business owners, and that includes women and minority businesses." (Parker talked about the positive impact that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's Western New York Regional Economic Development Council could have as it crafts a "strategy for prosperity.") "The experts always said that in order to really push forward minority and women businesses, you need to have at the table private corporations, government leadership and African-American as well as women business owners. We have that now.
Meyer: Are there obstacles that are unique to minority- and women-owned businesses?
Parker: "They are the same obstacles that small businesses deal with all the time. But there is uniqueness, because of African-Americans' [difficulty in getting] access to capital ... And some of that goes back to generational wealth. A lot of people may say: 'Oh, these are excuses - going back to slavery,' and so on. But it had a profound impact on African-Americans generating wealth."
Meyer: How do you take discussions and empowerment conferences to the next level?
Parker: "It's about innovation, creativity and doing your research ... and really focusing on what the new economy is going to look like."