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Virtual 24th Booker T. Washington Economic Development Summit provides pivotal and vital perspectives to help businesses stay viable in challenging times.

Cooperative Extension initiated the Booker T. Washington Economic Development Summit in 1995, the 100th anniversary of our first president's opening speech at the States and International Exposition in Atlanta, Georgia, on September 18, 1895. The vision for the economic development summit was to capture the essence of Washington's Exposition speech and use it as a foundation for development in the Black Belt region. It has consistently promoted entrepreneurship and community economic development in small towns, the southern region, and America. The 24th Booker T. Washington Economic Development Summit themed, Growing Your 21st Century Business in Today's New "Economic" Normal, went completely virtual and provided valuable, pivotal, and vital perspectives for the challenges in today's time.

This year's summit had three main focuses for this time of economic uncertainty – Access to Capital, Digital Marketing, and Risk Management. Some of the keynote speakers included Ramon Ray of Smart Hustle Media discussing advances in Digital Marketing, and Jeremie Greer of Liberation in a Generation discussing the establishment of a Liberation Economy. Dr. Nyesha Black of the University of Alabama Culverhouse College of Business presented a comprehensive report on the state of microbusinesses in Alabama.

The first focus of Access to Capital provided information for potential and current entrepreneurs/business owners to find public and private funding sources. Access to capital is critical during this pandemic.

"We wanted to provide information for attendees that would help them pivot and/or stay viable through this challenging time," said Gary Walton, chairman of the BTW Summit Planning Committee.

The second focus of Digital Marketing was a dialogue about the benefits of digital marketing and its necessity for businesses during critical times, including the current pandemic. The importance of branding, digital strategy, social and content marketing, and digital media monetization is crucial in creating and maintaining a presence during difficult times. The committee also noted that addressing broadband access, especially for rural communities, will be a key component to the digital discussion.

The final focus was Risk Management, which focused on dealing with the challenges that Covid-19 has presented. How to adapt and transition during this time are key takeaways from this session.

"We are delighted to address the impact of the pandemic on business and concluding with a report on the state of microbusinesses in Alabama," concluded Walton.

The Booker T. Washington Economic Summit is part of the Community Resources and Economic Development Extension & Research planned program area that focuses on enhancing financial security and better management of available resources for individuals and families, start-up micro-entrepreneurs, and communities. Integrated Research and/or Extension Team Projects for this program area are: (a) Family Finances, (b) Start-up Businesses and Non-Profits, (c) Heir Property and African American Land loss and (d) Community Development through Food Systems.

Part of the virtual summit can be viewed by clicking HERE...