By David Hinson, national director of the Minority Business Development Agency, U.S. Department of Commerce.
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics just released the latest details on the American job market. The report mixed good news with bad — private-sector firms created 159,000 new jobs in October, but the unemployment rate remains persistently high, at 9.6 percent.
Policymakers continue to search for ways to help those looking for work to find jobs. The minority business community should be at the center of that conversation.
Minority firms have been an engine of job growth for the U.S. economy in recent years, outpacing growth within the general business community for most of the last decade.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of people employed at minority-owned businesses jumped 27 percent — from 4.7 million to 5.9 million — between 2002 and 2007. Job growth for non-minority-owned firms was less than 1 percent during that time.
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In those five years, the number of minority-owned firms in the United States grew 46 percent, to a total of 5.8 million. Meanwhile, the number of firms in the overall economy expanded at less than half that rate.
Minority businesses are emerging as leading exporters, too. They exported to 41 countries on six continents between 1992 and 2009, according to the U.S. Export Import Bank.
With these figures in mind, there's no doubt that minority entrepreneurs will lead the American business community's charge to double exports within the next five years, as the president's National Export Initiative has challenged them to do.
While minority-owned businesses are growing at a breakneck pace, disparities continue to exist between minority- and non-minority-owned firms. Just 800,000 of the nearly 6 million minority firms in existence have more than one employee. And the annual revenue for the average minority-owned firm is about $300,000 less than that of a non-minority-owned firm.
Closing the entrepreneurial revenue gap between minority- and non-minority-owned businesses based on the share of the adult minority population would add $2.5 trillion to our nation's economic output, creating 11.8 million more American jobs and unleashing the innovation of an economic sector that has long been undervalued.
Corporate America can strengthen its efforts to make minority-owned businesses a larger part of its global supply chain, and minority business owners can and should do a better job of embracing aggressive growth models and capitalizing on opportunities for alliances, mergers and strategic partnerships.
Minority-owned firms don't have to pursue these growth strategies blindly. The Minority Business Development Agency at the U.S. Department of Commerce supports more than 40 business centers around the country to help minority-owned firms secure access to capital and contracts and assistance in entering growing foreign markets.
As we look for ways to create more jobs for Americans still desperately in need, shining a light on the economic potential of the minority-business community can significantly benefit the American people and the U.S. economy.