Opinion: Black Business Month Is a Time for Reflection – Maryland Matters – Josh Kurtz

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Black Business Month
Unsplash.com photo.

By Janet Currie

The writer is president of Bank of America Greater Maryland.

August is Black Business Month, a time to celebrate the impact that Black-owned businesses have on our economy and our workforce, as well as a time to reflect on the various ways we can continue to support these businesses.

In 2004, historian John William Templeton and engineer Frederick E. Jordan Sr. founded National Black Business Month in an effort to drive the policy agenda affecting the then 2.6 million Black-owned businesses across the nation.

Nearly 20 years later, the collective effort to advance the success of Black-owned businesses persists, with the events of the past 18 months in particular reigniting conversations surrounding diverse representation and equitable access to opportunity.

According to BofA Global Research, in 2020, there were no Black senior executives in any Financial Times Stock Exchange 100 companies; today, there are only three Black Fortune 500 CEOs. A lack of diversity and representation in business is detrimental not only socially, but financially as well. According to a study from S&P Global Ratings, companies with the highest levels of racial diversity were able to generate nearly 15 times more sales revenue than firms with the lowest levels.

Maryland consistently ranks among the most supportive states for Black-owned businesses. In addition, the mission behind Black Business Month is especially poignant here in Baltimore, where 47% of the city’s small businesses are Black-owned. However, more work remains to be done.

Key findings among Black business owners surveyed for Bank of America’s Summer 2021 Black Business Owner Spotlight, released this month, included:

  • 90% of Black SBOs have adopted new digital tools/strategies in response to the pandemic;
  • 75% of Black business owners say that entrepreneurs of color have to work harder to achieve the same level of success when compared to their counterparts; and
  • 50% of Black business owners intend to apply for a bank loan or line of credit this year. They plan to use the funding for payroll and staffing, new safety measures and protocols and expanding operations.

At Bank of America, we are committed to supporting our Black teammates, clients and neighbors, which includes increasing access to opportunity in the communities where we live and work.

In 2020, we selected Baltimore Community Lending as one of the recipients of a $200,000 grant and leadership training as part of our Neighborhood Builders program. Baltimore Community Lending, a Community Development Financial Institution exclusively serving Baltimore City, aims to create a more representative and economically balanced Baltimore City by fostering diverse leadership in the nonprofit sector, supporting local small businesses, and providing loan capital to small real estate developers and small business owners committed to developing underserved neighborhoods.

In addition to our local work, Bank of America has committed $1.25 billion over five years to advance racial equality and economic opportunity in communities throughout the nation, with $350 million directly impacting efforts with minority entrepreneurs, businesses and funds.

Bank of America is also dedicated to fostering an inclusive work environment for our employees of color, including through the Black Professional Group, which now has more than 13,000 members and supports the recruitment, retention and promotion of Black/African-American employees and offers mentoring to help develop leadership potential.

A truly meaningful impact requires all of our participation. This Black Business Month, there are many ways to join the effort:

  • Be intentional with how you spend your money: seek out and shop at Black-owned businesses;
  • Local business owners may consider partnering or collaborating with local Black-owned businesses; and
  • Recommend your favorite Black-owned businesses and brands to friends and family, and encourage others within your circles to do the same.

Ensuring increased access to opportunity, diverse representation and support for local businesses will not only strengthen our economy but the very heart of our community as well.