Former college president urges innovation at economic development summit


TUSKEGEE, Ala. (September 28, 2012) — The 17th Annual Booker T. Washington Economic Development Summit concluded today after several days of workshops and discussions on helping to revitalize small communities. On Thursday, Julianne Malveaux, addressed the conference during its Business Success Story Luncheon.

Malveaux, the former president of Bennett College, urged the audience to look beyond the current economic landscape and to be innovative when starting in business.

“This is a challenging time to open a business, but we have had challenging times before,” Malveaux told the audience in the ballroom of the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center during the luncheon that honored Boyd Stephens, founder of Netelysis, LLC. in Montgomery, Ala.

Malveaux also shared that employment and incomes for blacks in the U.S. are on the decline and poverty rates and economic disparities are increasing at a frightening rate. She said currently, blacks hold less than two percent of our nation’s wealth. Instead of being discouraged by the tough economic times, Malveaux suggested that young entrepreneurs look to black American history for inspiration. She gave several examples of black entrepreneurs from pre-Civil War times and the early 20th Century who overcame enslavement and/or racial oppression to build thriving businesses that freed them from their conditions.

“I get really animated, when I talk about this,” Malveaux said with a wide smile. “It really let’s us know who we are, but we forget that.”

Malveaux said that many of the businesses owned by blacks are often small businesses with few employees. Also, many of the businesses are service industry-oriented. She said such businesses may be good to support the proprietors, but are not as helpful to the community. She encouraged blacks to look into businesses in the technology sector and work to help the community by hiring more employees.

“Those are your marching orders. To ensure that black people not only survive, but thrive,” Malveaux said.

Julianne Malveaux, the former president of Bennett College

From the left: Walter A. Hill, dean of the College of Agriculture, Environment and Nutrition Sciences; Boyd Stephens, 2012 Business Success Story Luncheon awardee; and Ntam Baharanyi, acting administrator for cooperative extension.

© 2012 Tuskegee University

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