Passage Nine (The Program-Federal Government Helps Minority Business)
Federal efforts to aid minority businesses began in the 1960’s when the Small Business Administration (SBA) began making federally guaranteed loans and government-sponsored management and technical assistance available to minority business enterprises. While this program enabled many minority entrepreneurs to form new businesses, the results were disappointing, since managerial inexperience, unfavorable locations, and capital shortages led to high failure rates. Even 15 years after the program was implemented, minority business receipts were not quite two percent of the national economy’s total receipts.
Recently federal policymakers have adopted an approach intended to accelerate development of the minority business sector by moving away from directly aiding small minority enterprises and toward supporting large, growth-oriented minority firms through intermediary netpanies. In this approach, large corporations participate in the development of successful and stable minority businesses by making use of government-sponsored venture capital. The capital is used by a participating netpany to establish a Minority Enterprise Small Businesses that have potential to benete future suppliers of customers of the sponsoring netpany.
MESBIC’s are the result of the belief that providing established firms with easier access to relevant management techniques and more job-specific experience, as well as substantial amounts of capital, gives those firms a greater opportunity to develop sound business foundations than does simply making general management experience and small amounts of capital available. Further, since potential markets for the minority businesses already exist through the sponsoring netpanies, the minority businesses face considerably less risk in terms of location and market fluctuation. Following early financial and operating problems, sponsoring corporations began to capitalize MESBIC’s far above the legal minimum of $500,000 in order to generate sufficient innete and to sustain the quality of management needed. MESBIC’s are now emerging as increasingly important financing sources for minority enterprises.
Ironically, MESBIC staffs, which usually consist of Hispanic and Black professionals, tend to approach investments in minority firms more pragmatically than do many MESBIC directors, who are usually senior managers from sponsoring corporations. The latter often still think mainly in terms of the ‘social responsibility approach’ and thus seem to prefer deals that are riskier and less attractive than normal investment criteria would warrant. Such differences in viewpoint have produced uneasiness among many minority staff members, who feel that minority entrepreneurs and businesses should be judged by established business considerations. These staff members believe their point of view is closer to the original philosophy of MESBIC’s and they are concerned that, unless a more prudent course if followed, MESBIC directors may revert to policies likely to re-create the disappointing results of the original SBA approach.