Beyond the Rhetoric
By Harry C. Alford
Last week, our local chapters (Black Chambers of Commerce) located in the Gulf Coast region got together for a growth summit. Out of this began the existence of the Gulf Coast Regional Black Chamber of Commerce. JR Jones (Mississippi Black Chamber of Commerce) and Arnold Baker (Black Chamber of the South – New Orleans) are the founders. The chapters within the states of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Florida will now act together toward the empowerment of Black entrepreneurs and workers throughout that “foot print.” We have a database of 6,000 Black owned businesses throughout that region and will exploit it. This effort will be a highlight of our 24th Annual Conference being held in New Orleans at the Riverside Hilton Hotel (www.nbcctoday2016.org).
Recognizing the billion+ dollar procurement potential at the ports along the coastlines of this region will be an important activity. The ports of Corpus Christi, Galveston, Houston, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Gulfport, Mobile, Tampa, Miami, Jacksonville, and Savannah will become opportunity centers. Our model will be the Port of New Orleans. Arnold Baker, a Commissioner of the Port, will pave the way to learning of these opportunities and providing a great improvement in contracting for the members of our chapters. We will spend a full day at the Port of New Orleans during our Annual Conference. Panels, informative speakers and examples of how to pursue procurement contracts will be some of the items offered to our participants.
The management of our natural resources will also be a prime activity on an ongoing basis. Right now we have a situation of urgent importance. The Gulf of Mexico is a critical oil-producing region in the U.S. and it is well-understood the region holds large reserves of oil and gas resources. Between the years of 2017 – 2022 there will be opportunities for new off-shore drilling leases throughout the Gulf. The current Administration has reneged on such a pledge for the South Atlantic shorelines. We must be vigilant and make the new leasing a reality. We are looking at billions of dollars in new economic activity. Jobs ($80,000.00 per year for each one) by the thousands and contracts by the millions for our businesses and workers in this industry. Oil and natural gas are the “lifeblood” of the economy of the Gulf. Plus, it is a serious matter in the security of our great nation. We are on it!
In particular, the West Central region (including Texas and Louisiana) and East South Central (including Alabama and Mississippi) are projected to create thousands of new jobs among minorities and women from 2016 – 2035. New upstream and downstream job opportunities would be created for thousands of minority and women citizens of the Gulf regions as a result of new offshore exploration. These job opportunities would otherwise be jeopardized if the Obama Administration opts to reverse its decision on the Gulf region under pressure from environmentalists. Poverty cannot be an option or alternative. Prosperity makes us strong, safe and secure.
We will also monitor and analyze the billions of dollars in federal money that flows from the Departments of HUD, HHS, and Labor. We will know exactly what is coming to this region and where it is going. In the past, much of this money went to ill minded sources who used it as a “Tool for Gentrification.” They wouldn’t end poverty, but just moved it down the road and replaced original venues with lavish upscale white communities. That fraud will have to end. Funding job training and re-entry programs must result in higher employment for our communities. Community Development Block Grants must fund contracts and jobs for under-served communities. Section 3 of the HUD Act and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act must be complied with and we will be monitoring.
Finally, our elected officials must be held accountable. We learned of a discussion with two members of the Congressional Black Caucus about the decreasing amount of opportunity for our citizens of color. They admitted things were bad, but they “could do nothing about it. It’s the political machine that prevents a solution.” Elected officials like that must be replaced. It isn’t ignorance or contrition. It is BETRAYAL! We must give them report cards. Those failing must be voted out of power. Those who champion our people must be recognized and rewarded with re-election. A PAC will be formed to drive this.
Each chapter will be given a checklist and report on activities once a month. Once we get the kinks out of our system we will roll it out nationally and then globally. A training manual will be given out at our Annual Conference for use by our chapters. It will be copy righted for exclusive use by the federation of the National Black Chamber of Commerce®.
Dated: April 11, 2016
Mr. Alford is the Co-Founder, President/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce®. Website: www.nationalbcc.org Email: [email protected]