Category Archives: Diversity

Hopeful signs from small business growth

MichaelVerchotAs we all try to look ahead and see what the New Year has in store for this region’s economy there are some less visible but possibly more promising early signs of recovery. At the end of 2009 the UW Foster School Business and Economic Development Center celebrated the successes of small businesses from across the state at the 11th annual UW Minority Business of the Year Awards banquet. The 550+ attendees celebrated the incredible growth that minority-owned businesses have had in Washington.

  • When the awards program began in 1999 the 50 largest minority-owned businesses in Washington had combined revenues of under $1 billion.
  • This year, the 50 largest had combined revenues in excess of $3 billion. And for the first time there’s a minority-owned business, PetroCard Systems of Kent, which has revenues in excess of $1 billion.
  • As recently as five years ago, companies could get on the largest minority-owned business list with sales of as little as $750,000 and this year, the smallest of the 50 largest businesses had revenues in excess of $3.4 million.
  • The fastest growing minority-owned business this year (for the 5th time in 7 years) comes from the Spokane area. The Spokane Tribal Enterprise Corporation has grown its revenues by more than 760% in the last three years and has grown from just seven employees to nearly 50.
  • The 25 fastest-growing, minority-owned businesses in Washington have added more than 600 jobs in the last three years, despite the recession.

Prior to the 2009 awards banquet, we held our annual Minority CEO Summit. This invitation-only event drew 40 CEOs of million dollar plus companies and the strategies that these companies were employing to grow were impressive and proving to be very successful. Some companies were developing joint ventures with companies throughout the Pacific Rim. Others were acquiring competitors, and still other companies were developing business-to-business relationships with other minority-owned companies to grab market share and to do business with each other.

Also at the Summit, Foster School economics professor Alan Hess presented the Chicago Federal Reserve Index of economic activity which showed that the economic recovery is ahead of schedule when compared to an average of the six recessions between 1970 and 2001. This was a great encouragement to the CEOs at the Summit who are all anxious to make new investments as the economy turns around.

While these CEOs of some of Washington’s largest and fastest growing minority-owned businesses were not feeling like the good times were rolling yet, as they talked with each other at the CEO Summit and Minority Business of the Year Awards, they were optimistic about their opportunities in 2010 – something we can all celebrate.

By Michael Verchot, director of the UW Business and Economic Development Center

What is the green economy?

Guest blog post by Rita Brogan, CEO of PRR

RitaBroganThe increased demand for green products and services comes from more than the consumer sector. Federal and state agencies, non-profits and major corporations have adopted process management standards and procurement policies that can have a significant cumulative impact on our environmental health. Businesses all over America are tripping over each other to prove their “greenness.” Many have sponsored Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs that proclaim a commitment to a triple bottom line of social, environmental and economic outcomes.

It is true that many CSR programs are more inclined to salute the green flag than to follow it—sometimes for purposes of public relations or to preempt the possibility  of stronger environmental regulation. Among the most egregious examples of green-washing has been the push by nearly every oil company in America is to reinvent itself as environmental business. British Petroleum (BP) has gone so far as to spend millions to rebrand as “Beyond Petroleum.” Does this mean that these oil companies no longer rely on a business model driven by fossil fuels?

But the green economy is real—the result of growing market demand and the sobering need to drastically change consumer habits to save our planet.

Market opportunity for minority businesses is manifest in many ways. There is a growing need for products and processes that:

  • Move away from petroleum-based products such as plastic bags and Styrofoam
  • Make creative reuse of materials and substances
  • Allow for better stewardship of our air and water
  • Provide non-toxic garden care and cleaning products
  • Promote more environmentally-friendly packaging
  • Can help businesses and organizations adopt green practices

Communities of color have historically done more with less because of economic necessity. Now it is an environmental necessity for all of us.

The opportunity to push your business concept in the direction of environmental responsibility has never been greater. The effort can, in fact, give you a competitive marketing and branding advantage by adding value that has priceless benefit for the health of our planet and future generations.

Rita Brogan is the CEO of PRR, a public affairs and communications firm based in Seattle that is nationally recognized for its work in social marketing, public involvement, and community building. PRR is one of Washington’s 50 largest minority-owned businesses. Brogan was a recent recipient of the Foster School’s Business and Economic Development Center Asian/Pacific Islander Business Leadership Award. She writes the BEDC Brogan blog series twice a month, focusing on green economy issues with an emphasis on ways that businesses owned by people of color or women can create a competitive advantage.

Minority community must mobilize today for green economy

Guest blog post by Rita Brogan, CEO of PRR

RitaBroganWhat do solar energy, non-toxic cleaners, bio-plastics and alternative fuels have in common?  More than meets the eye.

All are obviously outgrowths of the emerging green economy—big business, about to get even bigger. But here is something else these industries have in common: All are enterprises owned and managed primarily by Caucasian Americans.

The growth of the green economy reflects growing public demand for products and services that reduce our carbon footprint and help the planet.  More and more, people are asking questions about what products contain, how they are manufactured and their impacts on human health.

The need for green goods and services is of particular relevance in communities of color, whose health and safety are more likely to be threatened by environmental impacts such as water and air quality, toxic exposure and hazardous working conditions.

Green jobs for minority communities
Many organizations that include non-profits, labor unions, community colleges, and the federal government have worked hard to promote “green jobs” for people of color.  These are jobs that give training and job skills in areas such as weatherization, solar panel installation, and green building.

This is a good thing, but it is not enough.  Green jobs may produce skilled laborers who can get family wage jobs.  These programs will not bring as much sustainable prosperity to communities of color as would a solar panel factory or a business that distributes environmentally-friendly products.  After the government funding ends, then what?

Businesses that are owned and managed by people of color are more likely to hire people of color, and more likely to return wealth and investment in their communities. What will be the opportunities for minority-owned businesses to play an early and formative role in the emerging green economy?

Scott Oki, a University of Washington MBA, who conceived and built Microsoft’s international operations, once said, “Preemption is worth its weight in gold.”  The sooner minority-owned businesses can establish a toe-hold in the green economy, the more likely they will be to establish a strong market presence.

For minority-owned business owners and leaders: In coming posts, we’ll discuss the tools and resources that minority-owned businesses need to get established in the world of green business—capitalization, market intelligence, networking, policy support and more.  Tell me what you would like to hear about, and we will marshal the resources to help you get what you need.

Rita Brogan is the CEO of PRR, a public affairs and communications firm based in Seattle that is nationally recognized for its work in social marketing, public involvement, and community building. PRR is one of Washington’s 50 largest minority-owned businesses. Brogan was a recent recipient of the Foster School’s Business and Economic Development Center Asian/Pacific Islander Business Leadership Award. She will be writing the BEDC Brogan blog series twice a month, focusing on green economy issues with an emphasis on ways that businesses owned by people of color or women can create a competitive advantage.

Building the next generation of business leaders of color

MichaelVerchotThis past spring, the College Success Foundation released the results of a study that looked at how well Washington’s high school students are doing in progressing toward high school graduation and their success in making it into college. As a state, we are lagging the national average:

  • Washington has a lower-than-national high school graduation rate of 69% versus 71%
  • The four-year high school graduation rate for white students in Washington is 72%; for Latino students it’s 57% and for African American students it’s 52%
  • Washington’s college-going rate of 48% for high school graduates immediately starting college is lower than the national rate of 61.6%
  • For 18-24 year olds in Washington just 29.2% are enrolled in college compared to 33.9% nationwide

For an economy like Washington’s where the future job growth is dependent on an educated and high-skilled workforce, these numbers are troubling. And with the projected growth among students of color among the college-going age group over the next decade the gap in college attendance between Caucasian and Asian American students on the one hand and African American, Latino, Native American, and Pacific Islander students on the other has the potential to have a significant impact on this state’s economic future.

Recently, the UW released a profile of our new freshman class. There was nearly a 7% growth in the number of freshman applicants but due to state funding cuts this year’s freshman class is about 4% smaller than last year. Looking at the number of under-represented minority students, this year’s freshman class has an all-time record number of Latino students (330 up from 320 last year) and Hawaiian/Pacific Islander students (45 up from 42) an increase in the number of Native American students (75 up from 71) but a four-year record low in the number of African American freshman (134 down from 179 last year).

At the Foster School of Business we focus on the total number of under-represented minority students at the undergraduate level. This year we have:

  • 70 Latino students (a record high)
  • 39 African American students (a slight increase from last year)
  • 13 Native American students (a slight increase from last year)
  • 533 Asian/Pacific Islander students (a record high)

But what’s most exciting to me is the growing pipeline of under-represented minority students we are building. For decades the Foster School has worked with the Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity (OMAD) and we continue to do so. But recognizing that business continues to be the most popular undergraduate major we’ve felt a special need to build programs that complement OMAD’s work and insure that the next generation of business leaders reflect the diversity of Washington State. That is why I’m very excited about the symbiotic relationship between the Foster School’s Business and Economic Development Center (BEDC) and the Undergraduate Diversity Services (UDS) office.

At the 2001, UW Minority Business of the Year Awards the BEDC raised funds to award the first scholarships (we call them BEDC Fellowships) to students of color at the business school.  In the fall of 2002, under the leadership of the UDS, these BEDC Fellows began to mentor and tutor high school students of color to help them prepare to go to college. Since 2002, individuals and companies who have attended the UW Minority Business of the Year Awards banquet have donated $170,000 in scholarships to 68 students of color at the Foster School of Business.

In 2006, UDS altered this high school program to become the Young Executives of Color (YEOC). This nine-month program has brought 247 high school students to the Foster School of Business between 2006 and 2009. Last year, there were 37 high school seniors who completed YEOC and 35 of them were offered admission to four-year colleges and universities and two were offered admission at community colleges. We’re excited that 13 of these students are enrolled at the UW and are getting in line to apply to come to the Foster School when it’s their turn to declare a major.

This year, we are witnessing a significant change in the YEOC program. Thanks to a three-year $75,000 commitment from Ernst & Young, this program will be able to support 100-125 high school students each year – a tripling of the number of students we can reach.

But now the leaders of the YEOC have come back to the BEDC with a challenge. The eight BEDC Fellows are being stretched to the limit as they work with our YEOC high school students. We need to increase the number of BEDC Fellows from 8 to 10 which means we need to raise at least $25,000 in scholarship funds at our December 10 UW Minority Business of the Year Awards banquet. In this economy that will be a steep challenge, but we’re confident that our 550 guests will be able to help us reach this goal. After all, our state’s economy depends on having an educated work force and what better way to do that than to increase the college-going rate for the state’s fastest-growing population groups.

I hope to see you all there on December 10.

By Michael Verchot, director of the UW Business and Economic Development Center

Minority business economic challenges and opportunities

MichaelVerchotI opened today’s newspaper to yet more glum unemployment news. On October 22, the chairwoman of the White House Council of Economic Advisors told the Joint Economic Committee of Congress that “unemployment is likely to remain at severely elevated level” through the end of 2010. It appears that the only question now is how high the unemployment rate will go.

At the start of the recession in December 2007, the US unemployment rate was 5% and it grew to 9.7% in August 2009 (according to US Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics). It’s now predicted that we’ll reach more than 10% before the end of this year. But we all know that unemployment is not evenly distributed among racial/ethnic groups and people with different levels of education.

The unemployment rate for African Americans, for example, has been above 9.7% since July 2008 and in August 2009 it was 15.1%. The Latino unemployment rate reached 9.7% in January and by August it was 13%.

The unemployment rate for people with less than high school degree has been over 9.7% since August 2008 and reached 15.6% in August 2009. For people with a bachelor’s degree, the unemployment rate peaked in May at 4.8%.

The fact that African American and Latino workers and all people without a college degree have high levels of unemployment are two of the reasons why we at the UW Business and Economic Development Center (BEDC) have a special emphasis on growing businesses that are owned by African Americans and Latinos and why we are excited about the impact that our BEDC Fellows are having on increasing the number of high school students who participate in the Foster School’s Young Executives of Color (YEOC) program run by the Foster School Undergraduate Diversity Services office.

Research over the last 20 years, largely conducted by Timothy Bates and Rob Fairlie, has found that, like white-owned businesses, companies that are owned by African Americans and Latinos tend to employ more people from these racial groups. (Both Bates and Fairlie presented papers at the 2006 and 2008 National Diversity in Business Research Conference hosted by the BEDC.) The BEDC’s success in growing highly successful businesses owned by people of color is helping to open job opportunities for Washington state residents from racial and ethnic groups that have historically high unemployment rates.

At our upcoming Minority Business of the Year Awards banquet we hope to raise at least $25,000 in scholarship funds that we can award to ten BEDC Fellows. I’ll talk more about the incredible work of our BEDC Fellows and the YEOC program in my next post.

By Michael Verchot, director of the UW Business and Economic Development Center

Foster MBA reunion speakers: Howard Behar and Allan Golston

Over 350 – a record number - Foster MBA grads returned to business school in September for the annual UW Foster School MBA reunion weekend. MBA grads from six different years (1984, 1989, 1994, 1999, 2004, 2009) gathered to reconnect with classmates, tailgate at a UW Husky football game, and listen to guest speakers talk about leadership issues. Guest speakers included:

Howard Behar, past president of Starbucks and former Foster School Fritzky leadership chair, talked about why people are not corporate assets, the value of the human spirit in the workplace, and how to encourage creativity and innovation.

 

Click image above to play video.
 

Allan Golston, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation president of United States programs, shared insights about new and upcoming research on education, the minority access gap, and discussed “talent lottery” luck.

Click image above to play video.

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Welcome to the University of Washington Foster School of Business blog, where you can learn about our business, community, student, faculty connections and happenings. Leaders are being educated and solving  complex, real-world problems while learning business fundamentals.

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