Connect with us

Business

Once Vilified, BP Now Getting Credit for Gulf Tourism Boom

Published

on

In this Wednesday, May 13, 2015 photo, tourists line the beaches in Gulf Shores, Ala. Industry officials say Gulf Coast tourism is surging, five years after the BP oil spill. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

In this Wednesday, May 13, 2015 photo, tourists line the beaches in Gulf Shores, Ala. Industry officials say Gulf Coast tourism is surging, five years after the BP oil spill. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

JAY REEVES, Associated Press

ORANGE BEACH, Ala. (AP) — With the Memorial Day holiday here, fallout from the oil spill that left Gulf Coast beaches smeared with gooey tar balls and scared away visitors in 2010 is being credited, oddly, with something no one imagined back then: An increase in tourism in the region.

Five years after the BP disaster, the petroleum giant that was vilified during heated town hall meetings for killing a way of life is now being praised by some along the coast for spending more than $230 million to help lure visitors back to an area that some feared would die because of the spill.

Questions remain about the long-term environmental impacts of the BP disaster, with a report released just last week finding a definite link between the spill and a record die-off of the bottlenose dolphins that tourists love to spot along the northern Gulf Coast. Pockets of oil still blot the sea floor and spots along Louisiana’s coast.

Meanwhile, many are still wrangling with BP over spill-related claims. Attorneys for businesses and individuals claiming damages from the spill announced a $211 million settlement last week with Transocean Ltd., owner of the failed Deepwater Horizon drilling rig.

Yet, at the same time, parking lots are full outside the same coastal hotels and condominium towers that struggled for business and slashed prices while crude was pouring into the gulf off Louisiana’s coast in 2010.

Visitors bob in surf where oil once washed in, and some restaurants have 90-minute waits for dinner on the weekend. Tourist business has doubled in Alabama’s largest beach towns since before the spill, officials say, and Pensacola Beach, Florida, is so clogged with visitors that traffic is a primary problem.

Many attribute the change in large part to the millions of dollars that BP spent on tourism grants and advertising that promoted the Gulf Coast nationwide to people who previously didn’t even realize that Alabama and Mississippi had coastlines.

“I’ve traveled as recently as the spring to California and there were people there who were saying, ‘Hey, I saw those commercials about Alabama,” said coastal condominium developer Bill Brett. “I really think those commercials helped.”

Brett is an owner of Brett/Robinson Real Estate, where he said business is up about 30 percent since the year before the spill. The company has developed 19 buildings with more than 3,200 condo units on the Alabama coast, including one that was finished with a $37 million settlement from BP after the spill.

The tourism surge isn’t happening in a vacuum: Many U.S. attractions have seen big increases during the same period as the economy recovered following the 2008 financial crisis and Americans returned to the road.

The theme parks of Orlando, Florida, helped draw a record 62 million visitors to the city last year, and the U.S. Travel Association expects Americans to spend about 5 percent more this Memorial Day than last.

But back in 2010, there were questions and fears over whether the tourist economy of the northern Gulf Coast would ever recover from the spill. Residents feared that images of oil-soaked birds and blackened beaches would permanently change travel patterns and leave towns like Gulf Shores, Alabama, and Destin, Florida, as the forgotten coast.

Ted Scarritt, who offers tourist cruises in Orange Beach aboard his 53-foot catamaran “Wild Hearts,” remembers crying and praying while the spill was happening. Scarritt, who also owns a beach service company, purchased the sailboat only months before the spill and had to keep it out of the oil-marred waters that summer.

Today all that seems like a bad, distant dream as he watches clear gulf waters slide past the hull during an afternoon of sailing off Alabama’s coast.

“We’re just amazingly thankful,” said Scarritt. “I think our area has recovered profoundly. You can look at the water right now, you can look at the beach. We’re fine.”

Picking up shells in the surf at Pensacola Beach, Autumn Ventling of Nashville, Tennessee, didn’t realize the spill ever occurred; she was just 18 at the time. Today, she said the white-sand beach and emerald-colored water appear beautiful, just like so many other beaches on the Gulf Coast.

“I can’t tell anything happened,” said Ventling, 23.

Part of that is because of a massive cleanup program BP conducted on beaches after the spill. For months, big machines with metal sifters dug deep to remove remaining mats of tar from the sand, which was then spread back on the seashore.

While the cleanup work was going on, BP was also shelling out cash to revive tourism.

BP spokesman Jason Ryan said the company provided $179 million in tourism promotion grants to the gulf states of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi, and it aired commercials nationally touting the region as recently as early 2013. The company hasn’t disclosed the cost of the spots, he said.

But under an agreement with plaintiff’s attorney who sued over the spill, BP provided another $57 million for private groups and government to promote tourism and seafood on the Gulf Coast.

The rebound has been a relief to people like Jeanne Dailey, owner of Newman-Dailey Vacation Rentals in Destin.

During the long summer of 2010, Dailey spent many sleepless nights fearing oil would wash ashore and kill the tourism business. The Destin area never got the heavy patches of oil that polluted Alabama beaches, Mississippi coastal islands and the boot of Louisiana, but the perception that the entire coast was coated in oil prompted hundreds of vacationers to cancel travel plans, she said.

“Once I made peace with the fact that I might have to declare bankruptcy, things started to get better,” she said.

BP’s ad campaign combined with sales incentives combined to lure people back to the area eventually led to a strong rebound, Dailey said. Five years later, her business is thriving and preparing to mark its 30th anniversary.

___

AP writer Melissa Nelson-Gabriel contributed to this story from Pensacola Beach, Florida.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Business

Go Fund Geoffrey’s

Whether it was Paul Mooney, Faye Carroll, Sugar Pie or Jay-Z performing or whether it was Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Mayor Elihu Harris, or Kamala Harris along with many of the Bay area’s elected officials they too have come to bask in the limelight of Geoffrey’s Inner Circle.

Published

on

Geoffrey's Inner Circle

For more than 30 years Geoffrey Pete ‘s business, Geoffrey’s Inner Circle, has been a cultural hub because of its full-service restaurant, live entertainment, nightclub parties, jazz music and community special occasion events. Faith-based organizations have also rented the spacious facilities for services and concerts. Their full-service restaurant, bar and live entertainment business along with their tenants and multilevel event rental spaces have been severely interrupted and devastated by the COVID 19 lockdowns and restrictions.

Whether it was Paul Mooney, Faye Carroll, Sugar Pie or Jay-Z performing or whether it was Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Mayor Elihu Harris, or Kamala Harris along with many of the Bay area’s elected officials they too have come to bask in the limelight of Geoffrey’s Inner Circle. Now those lights are dimmed due to the economic conditions that have descended on high intensity people-contact businesses.

Thanks to a group of customers and supporters a Go Fund Me page has been opened for the public to contribute to support Geoffrey’s Inner Circle https://gofund.me/b2541419.

The Post newspaper has notified the Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce that regular articles concerning the needs of Geoffrey’s and other Black-owned Businesses will be published weekly.

Continue Reading

Business

Some Upbeat News for Black Businesses Still Reeling From Pandemic Losses

During a news briefing hosted by Ethnic Media Services last month, speakers discussed how small businesses in California and around the country can emerge from this crisis, catch the wave of what seems to be a gathering economic boom, or continue to tread water to stay afloat. 

Happy black waitress with face mask and gloves holding open sign while reopening during coronavirus epidemic./Shutterstock

Next week, after more than a year, California is expected to lift the majority of its COVID-19 related restrictions and reopen its economy at almost-full capacity. 

But as the state prepares for a long-anticipated comeback, many Black business-owners say enterprises across the state that African Americans own face an uphill road to recovery. 

“It’s a state of disrepair. They need significant support,” said Tara Lynn Gray, director of the California Office of the Small Business Advocate.  

Black-owned business operators who are struggling will need all the financial support available to them, Gray told California Black Media (CBM) at a luncheon hosted by the California Black Chamber of Commerce in Sacramento.

(Black businesses) have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19,” Gray said. “Fortunately, the governor has stepped up and provided $2.5 billion dollars in relief funds to all small businesses with priority to the disadvantaged communities of color.”

In February 2020, there were 1 million Black-owned businesses in operation around the United States, according to a University of California at Santa Cruz report.

About six weeks later, after the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the number of Black business owners had dropped to 440,000, a 41%, reduction. Many of them had to shut down their businesses for good. 

During the same time, only 17% of white proprietors had to shut down their businesses, UC Santa Cruz research shows. Overall, nearly 4 million minority-owned U.S. firms, whose annual sales total close to $700 billion, shuttered because of COVID-19.

But despite the grim statistics, a number of small business advocates say there is financial help available both at the state and federal levels for most business-owners. 

During a news briefing hosted by Ethnic Media Services last month, speakers discussed how small businesses in California and around the country can emerge from this crisis, catch the wave of what seems to be a gathering economic boom, or continue to tread water to stay afloat. 

The main objective of the briefing was helping small businesses, particularly minority owned ones, connect to various sources of funding created to help them recover from the pandemic. 

The key is to apply for the money, said Everett Sands, CEO of Lendistry, a leading, Black-led Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) and Community Development Entity (CDE) that is also a small business and commercial real estate lender. 

“Let’s make an assumption. If you are allowed to open, and you can open, then therefore you should be able to receive some type of revenue,” Sands said. “What we’ve learned about the pandemic is that most opportunities are coming a second time. If you look at the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), it came a third time. But it is important for businesses to apply.”

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is a federal revenue replacement program designed to sustain small business jobs during the ongoing public health and economic crisis. May 31 was the last day for small business owners operating in low-income neighborhoods to apply for the third round of PPP loans.

In California, Lendistry helped thousands of small businesses secure loans and grants during the pandemic. Funded by the State of California through the California Office of the Small Business Advocate, Lendistry, was the state-contracted administrator of the program that administered six rounds of grant funding for non-profits and underserved businesses.

Sands was one of the guest speakers along with U.S. Congressman Ro Khanna (D-CA-17), a member of the Congressional Small Business Caucus, and Virginia Ali. Ali owns the nationally renowned restaurant and Black-owned small business Ben’s Chili Bowl in Wash., D.C.

Sands said before the virus surfaced, minority businesses were already in a “financially precarious position” with strained resources. Small businesses had limited access to capital, he said, and they lacked the infrastructure to apply for loans or contracts and many of them couldn’t self-finance in the long term.

But on the cusp of the state and U.S. economies reopening, Sands says it is not too late for businesses to get their financial footing. 

“As a result of the American Rescue Plan, most states received roughly $1 billion to help these small businesses increase their revenues” he said.

Of California’s 4.1 million small businesses, 1.2 million (29%) are minority-owned.  ZIPPIA, an online career support company, calculated that 10,287 Black-owned businesses operate in California. According to the June 2020 report by ZIPPIA, titled the “Most Supportive States for Black Businesses,” California ranked No. 4 before the pandemic. Based on data compiled by the United States Census’ Annual Business Survey, California’s Black businesses employ roughly 81,530 people. 

Gray said restaurants, barbershops, nail salons, hair salons, hospitality, and personal grooming services have been “inexplicably hurt” due to social-distancing restrictions in the state.

Those businesses, owned by many African Americans, were not deemed as essential when a shelter-in-place order was mandated. Now those are the businesses that Newsom intends to help, Gray stated.

“Our governor had a tough choice to make,” Gray said. “You close things down to make sure people are safe. Public health is a serious issue. I applaud him for doing that. Yes, there are consequences to our small businesses. But in the end, look at us now. We have the lowest positivity rate in the nation. Also, it looks like our economy is coming back.”

A survey conducted by H&R Block found that out of 3,000 small businesses, 53% of Black business operators saw their revenues cut in half due to the pandemic as compared to 37% of White owners. 

Black-owned small businesses continue to experience disproportionate difficulties, with 35% of Black entrepreneurs reporting that business conditions are worsening. Many say they may not survive the next three months.

While the reopening of the economy signals progress, Sands is encouraging Black businesses to pay attention to Small Business Administration programs (SBA) that include loans, a restaurant relief fund and venture capital investments.

To apply for federal small business funding, Sands says, a company only has to show the sole business’ gross revenue. Applicants won’t be excluded if the proprietor has been a borrower on a defaulted student loan or has a criminal history.

“For amounts less than $150,000, most of the red tape or the bureaucratic process of a loan has been cleared away,” Sands said. 

Khanna said more funding is expected to be distributed through the Saving Our Street Act, which would allocate loans of up to $250,000 to businesses with fewer than 10 employees.

Distribution of the money will be based on the racial and gender diversity of the business owners, he said, and it should help the economy get stronger and financially stabilize the country.

“In this next quarter, we’re going to have a pretty good recovery,” he said. “Consumer spending is at 10% growth. I think small businesses are going to come back strong. The problem is a lot of businesses that have had to close may not be able to reopen. And that’s where we have to focus: assisting with debt forgiveness and capital for those businesses that would not survive.”

 

Continue Reading

Activism

California Awards Ceremony Celebrates the Best of Ethnic Journalism

“Ethnic media has quickly become an increasingly indispensable bridge for communicating with diverse populations within our state,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said at the opening ceremony.

Published

on

AbsolutVision; Business Paper

Some 30 ethnic media journalists were honored for their coverage of the epic events of 2020 at a virtual California Ethnic Media Awards ceremony, which took place June 3.

Selected from 235 submissions from reporters working in print, digital, TV and radio (in eight languages), the winners were chosen by judges with language and cultural fluency who know the challenges of working in the sector.

“Ethnic media has quickly become an increasingly indispensable bridge for communicating with diverse populations within our state,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said at the opening ceremony.

“You have worked against enormous odds to make sure our communities were informed about historic news events of the year. You are key to sustaining an inclusive communications infrastructure that knits our communities together when so many forces, as you know well, threaten to drive us apart,” the governor added.

The multilingual awards were sponsored by Ethnic Media Services and California Black Media. Each winner received $1,000 in cash. Entries were submitted in nine categories:

  • The 2020 census,
  • The COVID-19 pandemic and its disproportionate impact on ethnic communities,
  • The economic crisis that exacerbated racial and economic fault lines in California, the rights of immigrants,
  • The movement for racial justice sparked by the murder of George Floyd, exceptional reporting on the impact of climate change, the 2020 elections, commentary that serves as a call to action for ethnic audiences, and community media innovation and resilience to survive the pandemic.

“Thank you to all the journalists, reporters, editors, photographers and publishers who work long hours without recognition every day. You are committed to telling stories and covering underreported stories that we would otherwise never hear,” said Regina Brown Wilson, Executive Director of California Black Media.

In their acceptance speeches, the awardees recognized the support of their editors, publishers and families, as well as the challenges of covering ethnic communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, racist policies, and hate crimes.

“Words can be deadly, or they can be life affirming. While the idle intellectual elite strive to cancel culture, we are tasked with removing the knee out of the throat of truth and reaffirming and defining journalism in our own image,” said Rose Davis of Indian Voices, awarded for her landmark essay: “The Census and the Fourth Estate,” which advocates for the participation of Native Americans in the census despite centuries of being excluded.

Danny Morrison, winner in the category of English language broadcast TV for his analysis of the Black Lives Matter movement in Bakersfield said that “as an African American man in central California, I’ve always known that we have a lot of work to do regarding the inequities within our ethnicity. That is the reason why my team and I went to prisons, schools, churches, youth groups and more to speak to the underserved and the forgotten because we understand the struggle that in most cases we have lived through.”

Jorge Macias, awarded for his digital coverage of climate change for Univision, recalled how in the last four years, “we all suffered from the denial of climate change, and even in moments of terror in California with these devastating fires, the former president (Donald) Trump said that science didn’t know. This prize means a lot because as human beings we have to battle with that absurd view denying climate change.”

Hosts for the evening were Odette Alcazaren-Keeley and Pilar Marrero, both distinguished veterans of the ethnic media industry. Some 20 elected officials, community leaders, scholars and writers paid tribute to the sector in videotaped remarks.

Sandip Roy, once a software engineer in Silicon Valley, now an award-winning author and journalist in India, said if it weren’t for ethnic media giving him a platform, he wouldn’t be a writer today.

After presenting awards to Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese reporters for stories on issues impacting Black and Latinx communities, Alcazaren-Keeley announced a special judge’s award for cross-cultural reporting.  The winner, Jeanne Ferris of News from Native California, documented how the destinies of two groups of people converged when Japanese Americans were incarcerated in World War II on reservation lands.

At the closing of the ceremony, Sandy Close, executive director of Ethnic Media Services, said the coming together of reporters from so many racial and ethnic groups to celebrate not just their own but each other’s work was the real takeaway for the night.  “Ethnic media are like fingers on a hand,” she said, quoting Chauncey Bailey, a veteran of Black media killed in 2007 for investigating wrongdoing in his own community. “When we work together, we’re a fist.”

Continue Reading

CHECK OUT THE LATEST ISSUE OF THE OAKLAND POST

ADVERTISEMENT

WORK FROM HOME

Home-based business with potential monthly income of $10K+ per month. A proven training system and website provided to maximize business effectiveness. Perfect job to earn side and primary income. Contact Lynne for more details: Lynne4npusa@gmail.com 800-334-0540

Facebook

Trending

Business

Once Vilified, BP Now Getting Credit for Gulf Tourism Boom

Published

on

In this Wednesday, May 13, 2015 photo, tourists line the beaches in Gulf Shores, Ala. Industry officials say Gulf Coast tourism is surging, five years after the BP oil spill. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

In this Wednesday, May 13, 2015 photo, tourists line the beaches in Gulf Shores, Ala. Industry officials say Gulf Coast tourism is surging, five years after the BP oil spill. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

JAY REEVES, Associated Press

ORANGE BEACH, Ala. (AP) — With the Memorial Day holiday here, fallout from the oil spill that left Gulf Coast beaches smeared with gooey tar balls and scared away visitors in 2010 is being credited, oddly, with something no one imagined back then: An increase in tourism in the region.

Five years after the BP disaster, the petroleum giant that was vilified during heated town hall meetings for killing a way of life is now being praised by some along the coast for spending more than $230 million to help lure visitors back to an area that some feared would die because of the spill.

Questions remain about the long-term environmental impacts of the BP disaster, with a report released just last week finding a definite link between the spill and a record die-off of the bottlenose dolphins that tourists love to spot along the northern Gulf Coast. Pockets of oil still blot the sea floor and spots along Louisiana’s coast.

Meanwhile, many are still wrangling with BP over spill-related claims. Attorneys for businesses and individuals claiming damages from the spill announced a $211 million settlement last week with Transocean Ltd., owner of the failed Deepwater Horizon drilling rig.

Yet, at the same time, parking lots are full outside the same coastal hotels and condominium towers that struggled for business and slashed prices while crude was pouring into the gulf off Louisiana’s coast in 2010.

Visitors bob in surf where oil once washed in, and some restaurants have 90-minute waits for dinner on the weekend. Tourist business has doubled in Alabama’s largest beach towns since before the spill, officials say, and Pensacola Beach, Florida, is so clogged with visitors that traffic is a primary problem.

Many attribute the change in large part to the millions of dollars that BP spent on tourism grants and advertising that promoted the Gulf Coast nationwide to people who previously didn’t even realize that Alabama and Mississippi had coastlines.

“I’ve traveled as recently as the spring to California and there were people there who were saying, ‘Hey, I saw those commercials about Alabama,” said coastal condominium developer Bill Brett. “I really think those commercials helped.”

Brett is an owner of Brett/Robinson Real Estate, where he said business is up about 30 percent since the year before the spill. The company has developed 19 buildings with more than 3,200 condo units on the Alabama coast, including one that was finished with a $37 million settlement from BP after the spill.

The tourism surge isn’t happening in a vacuum: Many U.S. attractions have seen big increases during the same period as the economy recovered following the 2008 financial crisis and Americans returned to the road.

The theme parks of Orlando, Florida, helped draw a record 62 million visitors to the city last year, and the U.S. Travel Association expects Americans to spend about 5 percent more this Memorial Day than last.

But back in 2010, there were questions and fears over whether the tourist economy of the northern Gulf Coast would ever recover from the spill. Residents feared that images of oil-soaked birds and blackened beaches would permanently change travel patterns and leave towns like Gulf Shores, Alabama, and Destin, Florida, as the forgotten coast.

Ted Scarritt, who offers tourist cruises in Orange Beach aboard his 53-foot catamaran “Wild Hearts,” remembers crying and praying while the spill was happening. Scarritt, who also owns a beach service company, purchased the sailboat only months before the spill and had to keep it out of the oil-marred waters that summer.

Today all that seems like a bad, distant dream as he watches clear gulf waters slide past the hull during an afternoon of sailing off Alabama’s coast.

“We’re just amazingly thankful,” said Scarritt. “I think our area has recovered profoundly. You can look at the water right now, you can look at the beach. We’re fine.”

Picking up shells in the surf at Pensacola Beach, Autumn Ventling of Nashville, Tennessee, didn’t realize the spill ever occurred; she was just 18 at the time. Today, she said the white-sand beach and emerald-colored water appear beautiful, just like so many other beaches on the Gulf Coast.

“I can’t tell anything happened,” said Ventling, 23.

Part of that is because of a massive cleanup program BP conducted on beaches after the spill. For months, big machines with metal sifters dug deep to remove remaining mats of tar from the sand, which was then spread back on the seashore.

While the cleanup work was going on, BP was also shelling out cash to revive tourism.

BP spokesman Jason Ryan said the company provided $179 million in tourism promotion grants to the gulf states of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi, and it aired commercials nationally touting the region as recently as early 2013. The company hasn’t disclosed the cost of the spots, he said.

But under an agreement with plaintiff’s attorney who sued over the spill, BP provided another $57 million for private groups and government to promote tourism and seafood on the Gulf Coast.

The rebound has been a relief to people like Jeanne Dailey, owner of Newman-Dailey Vacation Rentals in Destin.

During the long summer of 2010, Dailey spent many sleepless nights fearing oil would wash ashore and kill the tourism business. The Destin area never got the heavy patches of oil that polluted Alabama beaches, Mississippi coastal islands and the boot of Louisiana, but the perception that the entire coast was coated in oil prompted hundreds of vacationers to cancel travel plans, she said.

“Once I made peace with the fact that I might have to declare bankruptcy, things started to get better,” she said.

BP’s ad campaign combined with sales incentives combined to lure people back to the area eventually led to a strong rebound, Dailey said. Five years later, her business is thriving and preparing to mark its 30th anniversary.

___

AP writer Melissa Nelson-Gabriel contributed to this story from Pensacola Beach, Florida.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Business

Go Fund Geoffrey’s

Whether it was Paul Mooney, Faye Carroll, Sugar Pie or Jay-Z performing or whether it was Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Mayor Elihu Harris, or Kamala Harris along with many of the Bay area’s elected officials they too have come to bask in the limelight of Geoffrey’s Inner Circle.

Published

on

Geoffrey's Inner Circle

For more than 30 years Geoffrey Pete ‘s business, Geoffrey’s Inner Circle, has been a cultural hub because of its full-service restaurant, live entertainment, nightclub parties, jazz music and community special occasion events. Faith-based organizations have also rented the spacious facilities for services and concerts. Their full-service restaurant, bar and live entertainment business along with their tenants and multilevel event rental spaces have been severely interrupted and devastated by the COVID 19 lockdowns and restrictions.

Whether it was Paul Mooney, Faye Carroll, Sugar Pie or Jay-Z performing or whether it was Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Mayor Elihu Harris, or Kamala Harris along with many of the Bay area’s elected officials they too have come to bask in the limelight of Geoffrey’s Inner Circle. Now those lights are dimmed due to the economic conditions that have descended on high intensity people-contact businesses.

Thanks to a group of customers and supporters a Go Fund Me page has been opened for the public to contribute to support Geoffrey’s Inner Circle https://gofund.me/b2541419.

The Post newspaper has notified the Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce that regular articles concerning the needs of Geoffrey’s and other Black-owned Businesses will be published weekly.

Continue Reading

Business

Some Upbeat News for Black Businesses Still Reeling From Pandemic Losses

During a news briefing hosted by Ethnic Media Services last month, speakers discussed how small businesses in California and around the country can emerge from this crisis, catch the wave of what seems to be a gathering economic boom, or continue to tread water to stay afloat. 

Happy black waitress with face mask and gloves holding open sign while reopening during coronavirus epidemic./Shutterstock

Next week, after more than a year, California is expected to lift the majority of its COVID-19 related restrictions and reopen its economy at almost-full capacity. 

But as the state prepares for a long-anticipated comeback, many Black business-owners say enterprises across the state that African Americans own face an uphill road to recovery. 

“It’s a state of disrepair. They need significant support,” said Tara Lynn Gray, director of the California Office of the Small Business Advocate.  

Black-owned business operators who are struggling will need all the financial support available to them, Gray told California Black Media (CBM) at a luncheon hosted by the California Black Chamber of Commerce in Sacramento.

(Black businesses) have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19,” Gray said. “Fortunately, the governor has stepped up and provided $2.5 billion dollars in relief funds to all small businesses with priority to the disadvantaged communities of color.”

In February 2020, there were 1 million Black-owned businesses in operation around the United States, according to a University of California at Santa Cruz report.

About six weeks later, after the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the number of Black business owners had dropped to 440,000, a 41%, reduction. Many of them had to shut down their businesses for good. 

During the same time, only 17% of white proprietors had to shut down their businesses, UC Santa Cruz research shows. Overall, nearly 4 million minority-owned U.S. firms, whose annual sales total close to $700 billion, shuttered because of COVID-19.

But despite the grim statistics, a number of small business advocates say there is financial help available both at the state and federal levels for most business-owners. 

During a news briefing hosted by Ethnic Media Services last month, speakers discussed how small businesses in California and around the country can emerge from this crisis, catch the wave of what seems to be a gathering economic boom, or continue to tread water to stay afloat. 

The main objective of the briefing was helping small businesses, particularly minority owned ones, connect to various sources of funding created to help them recover from the pandemic. 

The key is to apply for the money, said Everett Sands, CEO of Lendistry, a leading, Black-led Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) and Community Development Entity (CDE) that is also a small business and commercial real estate lender. 

“Let’s make an assumption. If you are allowed to open, and you can open, then therefore you should be able to receive some type of revenue,” Sands said. “What we’ve learned about the pandemic is that most opportunities are coming a second time. If you look at the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), it came a third time. But it is important for businesses to apply.”

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is a federal revenue replacement program designed to sustain small business jobs during the ongoing public health and economic crisis. May 31 was the last day for small business owners operating in low-income neighborhoods to apply for the third round of PPP loans.

In California, Lendistry helped thousands of small businesses secure loans and grants during the pandemic. Funded by the State of California through the California Office of the Small Business Advocate, Lendistry, was the state-contracted administrator of the program that administered six rounds of grant funding for non-profits and underserved businesses.

Sands was one of the guest speakers along with U.S. Congressman Ro Khanna (D-CA-17), a member of the Congressional Small Business Caucus, and Virginia Ali. Ali owns the nationally renowned restaurant and Black-owned small business Ben’s Chili Bowl in Wash., D.C.

Sands said before the virus surfaced, minority businesses were already in a “financially precarious position” with strained resources. Small businesses had limited access to capital, he said, and they lacked the infrastructure to apply for loans or contracts and many of them couldn’t self-finance in the long term.

But on the cusp of the state and U.S. economies reopening, Sands says it is not too late for businesses to get their financial footing. 

“As a result of the American Rescue Plan, most states received roughly $1 billion to help these small businesses increase their revenues” he said.

Of California’s 4.1 million small businesses, 1.2 million (29%) are minority-owned.  ZIPPIA, an online career support company, calculated that 10,287 Black-owned businesses operate in California. According to the June 2020 report by ZIPPIA, titled the “Most Supportive States for Black Businesses,” California ranked No. 4 before the pandemic. Based on data compiled by the United States Census’ Annual Business Survey, California’s Black businesses employ roughly 81,530 people. 

Gray said restaurants, barbershops, nail salons, hair salons, hospitality, and personal grooming services have been “inexplicably hurt” due to social-distancing restrictions in the state.

Those businesses, owned by many African Americans, were not deemed as essential when a shelter-in-place order was mandated. Now those are the businesses that Newsom intends to help, Gray stated.

“Our governor had a tough choice to make,” Gray said. “You close things down to make sure people are safe. Public health is a serious issue. I applaud him for doing that. Yes, there are consequences to our small businesses. But in the end, look at us now. We have the lowest positivity rate in the nation. Also, it looks like our economy is coming back.”

A survey conducted by H&R Block found that out of 3,000 small businesses, 53% of Black business operators saw their revenues cut in half due to the pandemic as compared to 37% of White owners. 

Black-owned small businesses continue to experience disproportionate difficulties, with 35% of Black entrepreneurs reporting that business conditions are worsening. Many say they may not survive the next three months.

While the reopening of the economy signals progress, Sands is encouraging Black businesses to pay attention to Small Business Administration programs (SBA) that include loans, a restaurant relief fund and venture capital investments.

To apply for federal small business funding, Sands says, a company only has to show the sole business’ gross revenue. Applicants won’t be excluded if the proprietor has been a borrower on a defaulted student loan or has a criminal history.

“For amounts less than $150,000, most of the red tape or the bureaucratic process of a loan has been cleared away,” Sands said. 

Khanna said more funding is expected to be distributed through the Saving Our Street Act, which would allocate loans of up to $250,000 to businesses with fewer than 10 employees.

Distribution of the money will be based on the racial and gender diversity of the business owners, he said, and it should help the economy get stronger and financially stabilize the country.

“In this next quarter, we’re going to have a pretty good recovery,” he said. “Consumer spending is at 10% growth. I think small businesses are going to come back strong. The problem is a lot of businesses that have had to close may not be able to reopen. And that’s where we have to focus: assisting with debt forgiveness and capital for those businesses that would not survive.”

 

Continue Reading

Activism

California Awards Ceremony Celebrates the Best of Ethnic Journalism

“Ethnic media has quickly become an increasingly indispensable bridge for communicating with diverse populations within our state,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said at the opening ceremony.

Published

on

AbsolutVision; Business Paper

Some 30 ethnic media journalists were honored for their coverage of the epic events of 2020 at a virtual California Ethnic Media Awards ceremony, which took place June 3.

Selected from 235 submissions from reporters working in print, digital, TV and radio (in eight languages), the winners were chosen by judges with language and cultural fluency who know the challenges of working in the sector.

“Ethnic media has quickly become an increasingly indispensable bridge for communicating with diverse populations within our state,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said at the opening ceremony.

“You have worked against enormous odds to make sure our communities were informed about historic news events of the year. You are key to sustaining an inclusive communications infrastructure that knits our communities together when so many forces, as you know well, threaten to drive us apart,” the governor added.

The multilingual awards were sponsored by Ethnic Media Services and California Black Media. Each winner received $1,000 in cash. Entries were submitted in nine categories:

  • The 2020 census,
  • The COVID-19 pandemic and its disproportionate impact on ethnic communities,
  • The economic crisis that exacerbated racial and economic fault lines in California, the rights of immigrants,
  • The movement for racial justice sparked by the murder of George Floyd, exceptional reporting on the impact of climate change, the 2020 elections, commentary that serves as a call to action for ethnic audiences, and community media innovation and resilience to survive the pandemic.

“Thank you to all the journalists, reporters, editors, photographers and publishers who work long hours without recognition every day. You are committed to telling stories and covering underreported stories that we would otherwise never hear,” said Regina Brown Wilson, Executive Director of California Black Media.

In their acceptance speeches, the awardees recognized the support of their editors, publishers and families, as well as the challenges of covering ethnic communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, racist policies, and hate crimes.

“Words can be deadly, or they can be life affirming. While the idle intellectual elite strive to cancel culture, we are tasked with removing the knee out of the throat of truth and reaffirming and defining journalism in our own image,” said Rose Davis of Indian Voices, awarded for her landmark essay: “The Census and the Fourth Estate,” which advocates for the participation of Native Americans in the census despite centuries of being excluded.

Danny Morrison, winner in the category of English language broadcast TV for his analysis of the Black Lives Matter movement in Bakersfield said that “as an African American man in central California, I’ve always known that we have a lot of work to do regarding the inequities within our ethnicity. That is the reason why my team and I went to prisons, schools, churches, youth groups and more to speak to the underserved and the forgotten because we understand the struggle that in most cases we have lived through.”

Jorge Macias, awarded for his digital coverage of climate change for Univision, recalled how in the last four years, “we all suffered from the denial of climate change, and even in moments of terror in California with these devastating fires, the former president (Donald) Trump said that science didn’t know. This prize means a lot because as human beings we have to battle with that absurd view denying climate change.”

Hosts for the evening were Odette Alcazaren-Keeley and Pilar Marrero, both distinguished veterans of the ethnic media industry. Some 20 elected officials, community leaders, scholars and writers paid tribute to the sector in videotaped remarks.

Sandip Roy, once a software engineer in Silicon Valley, now an award-winning author and journalist in India, said if it weren’t for ethnic media giving him a platform, he wouldn’t be a writer today.

After presenting awards to Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese reporters for stories on issues impacting Black and Latinx communities, Alcazaren-Keeley announced a special judge’s award for cross-cultural reporting.  The winner, Jeanne Ferris of News from Native California, documented how the destinies of two groups of people converged when Japanese Americans were incarcerated in World War II on reservation lands.

At the closing of the ceremony, Sandy Close, executive director of Ethnic Media Services, said the coming together of reporters from so many racial and ethnic groups to celebrate not just their own but each other’s work was the real takeaway for the night.  “Ethnic media are like fingers on a hand,” she said, quoting Chauncey Bailey, a veteran of Black media killed in 2007 for investigating wrongdoing in his own community. “When we work together, we’re a fist.”

Continue Reading

Trending