Tuesday, June 16, 2015

How to structure a minority contractor loan fund, courtesy of St. Louis American

Attorney Eric E. Vickers, courtesy of St. Louis American

"I read in The American about the establishment of the $10 million minority contractor loan fund. Congratulations to all involved. I know from talks with principals that many have been working diligently on this for some time, so I am glad to see it come to fruition.  

I have been involved in a lot of conversations about what it seems to take for a minority firm to succeed in this tough and discriminatory business environment. And with the establishment of this loan fund I want to share some thoughts on the criteria that should be used in lending. I noticed in the article that this fund will have a "relaxed qualifying criteria," which hopefully means that lack of collateral or credit scores will not be a barrier.  
First, I would concentrate on second- and third-generation minority firms. Business success requires mistakes, and I see many sound second- and third-generation minority contractors who have learned from the mistakes of their parents.  Also, they tend to be more educated about business and management, as the first generation consisted of the skilled craftsmen rather than back office managers.
Second, I would look to do contract financing, using contracts as the collateral for loans. I have not seen banks in Missouri do this, though I have seen banks in Illinois do a very effective job of lending on the basis of contracts.
hird, I would ask for references. The construction industry here is one where everyone pretty much knows each other. So you can find out from other contractors whether a contractor is reliable, does good work, and has integrity in how they operate their business.
Fourth, require that they have a short-term and long-term strategic plan for their business. Minority firms are generally so caught up in a week-to-week survival mode that they don't have time or the inclination to focus on the big picture of where they want their business to be five to 10 years from now. So let the loan allow them the opportunity and space to be able to think ahead.
Finally, make support services and resources available as part of the loan. Having that accounting, management and legal infrastructure in place is both vital to them being able to service the loan and to grow their business.  
Vickers is a St. Louis attorney and minority inclusion advocate". Courtesy of St. Louis American .  

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Freedom history lesson, part two, By Eric E. Vickers, courtesy of St. Louis American

Eric E. Vickers

"I enjoyed reading and was enlightened by the history of racism in Missouri that Adolphus Pruitt laid out in detail in the article "Past freedom movements in Missouri." However, I was disturbed by the manner in which he seemed to denigrate and even demean the demonstrations that have ensued since the killing of Michael Brown Jr.  

Actually, I was a bit shocked, because I think Pruitt has done an outstanding job in elevating the activist role of the local NAACP, particularly on economic issues, since assuming the presidency of the organization a few years ago.

His statement that "activists dusted off their gear, ministers darned their collars while career protesters shined their boots," reflects, I think, a lack of historical perspective. The "activists" I have seen involved in the Ferguson movement have been involved in the black struggle for decades, and their rising to the fore at this time only demonstrates their consistency and commitment. To refer to them as "career protesters" is not only insulting, it shows a lack of understanding of the need for the black community to have permanent warriors.  
What I found more disturbing, though, was the assertion that "organizing meetings sprung up like weeds, choking off meaningful networking and strategic planning needed to usher effective and measurable outcomes." That way of thinking seems to position the NAACP – a valued and essential black organization – as being behind the times, because it reflects a lack of appreciation of the new dynamic that began with the Ferguson uprising and that has swept the nation.  
It is important that the NAACP recognize that there has been a rejection of the old and traditional means of "networking" and working with the establishment powers to try to bring about a resolution of this crisis. The traditional solutions of, for example, calling on the Justice Department, or blacks registering to vote, are seen as important, though insufficient to address a problem of injustice and oppression that has persisted, notwithstanding these means long being employed. 
It is critical that the historical lessons, resources and activist weaponry of the NAACP be involved in this new movement, so it disturbs me that Pruitt thinks that the spontaneity and impromptu nature of this movement has choked off "effective and measurable outcomes." 
Finally, I found a bit of historical irony in his concluding the article with the account of the black man murdered and burned by a lynch mob in Sikeston in 1942, suggesting that the investigation and indictment by the Justice Department then provides the precedence for the solution to civil rights issues we are facing today. Had this course of action been sufficient to address civil rights issues, the movement sparked by Rosa Parks in 1955 would not have been necessary.  
And also, speaking frankly, had the NAACP been effective then in addressing the cry of black people for justice, the establishment of the Southern Christian Leadership Council - headed by Martin Luther King Jr. - and the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee would not have been necessary.
Eric E. Vickers is a civil rights activist and attorney." Courtesy of St. Louis American.