As a leader, you must consistently drive effective communication. Meetings must be deliberate and intentional – your organizational rhythm should value purpose over habit and effectiveness over efficiency. – Chris Fussell
In the world of economic development and real estate development there are fundamentals that allow for development to take place. One of those fundamentals is what is known as an anchor. According to Janover Commercial Real Estate, “An anchor tenant is the largest or most prominent store in a retail commercial real estate development, intended to help draw customers into the area. In strip centers and power centers, anchor tenants are often big-box stores or grocery stores, while in shopping malls, they’re more likely to be department stores.” Anchors can be a myriad of things such as neighborhoods, megachurches, downtowns, boarding schools, and yes (but not limited too) colleges and universities.
It is a simple question really. What good is African America’s $1.6 trillion in buying power if all of it goes into companies owned by non-African Americans? From the FAMUAN Online, “Studies say that the average lifespan of the dollar is approximately 28 days in Asian communities, 19 days in Jewish communities, 17 days in white communities — and just six hours in Black communities.” Yet it seems there is no actual intentionality on changing this. No thought to why it is happening and certainly no thought to solutions. One major issue of course is that everything African American institutionally operates on an island. There is virtually no interconnectivity between African American institutions or intentionality on creating it. The real question begs, do we understand what it would take to actually increase the African American dollars circulation?
There are a plethora of independent Black owned coffee shops in every city where an HBCU is located and yet HBCUs are more excited to bring Starbucks to their campus. Texas Southern and Prairie View A&M University could feature The Breakfast Klub on their campus, but instead Sodexho, a French owned company, dominates their food services and many other HBCUs. An opportunity to create a food hall of locally owned African American food businesses both on and near our campuses is missed, ignored, simply not considered. The opportunity to have African American banks and credit unions present on or near our campuses – again, missed, ignored, and simply not considered. Many have argued that HBCUs banking needs are too big for African American owned banks. Despite, Florida Memorial University and Roxbury Community College, an HBCU and PBI both banking with OneUnited Bank. Albeit they are smaller HBCUs, this claim that HBCUs financial needs are beyond that of African American owned banks is not actually founded in any real assessment. Even if one were to go with this notion (as faulty as it is) this does not remove the institutions ability to ensure African American banks and credit unions have access to their faculty, staff, and students to open accounts and build relationships. What about the Divine 9, student organizations, and the like? Do we believe they too have to “complicated” of financial needs to not bank with an African American owned bank or credit union? Even if just the faculty, staff, students, and low level organizations with the campus banked with African American owned banks it would be enough to double the size of them alone. This lack of intentionality is painfully screaming at us. Opportunities for HBCU/African American health providers like dentists, doctors, therapists, etc. to be given space on or near HBCU campuses could be highly proactive in addressing and preventing many of the health crises we find the African American community facing.
What happens if we become intentional? What happens if we become proactive and not reactive to trying to circulate the African American dollar using HBCUs as the anchor? These small businesses grow first and foremost. With this growth come jobs and interns for our students, new wealth for the owners of the businesses and an opportunity for HBCUs to build sponsorship and endowment relationships with them. Our students working for these African American firms are now using their intellectual capital to build more African American institutions, reducing their own student debt loads while in college, and maybe just maybe be an early employee that received stock options that make them a millionaire of the next Google, FedEx, Microsoft, Dell, Nike, SNL Financial, or any of the other major companies that we may or may not realize were started on college campuses and in college towns. Except in this case, they are companies that are HBCU Alumni/African American owned. Those banks and credit unions would then be able to open multiple branches and put predatory financial services in our communities out of business. They would have the deposit bases to offer more small business loans for HBCU entrepreneurs and mortgage loans for HBCU homeowners. This is not even to speak of the implications of such an increase in the tax base in those areas that the K-12 schools that often surround HBCUs would significantly benefit. K-12s that are usually filled with African American children who could one day be HBCU students. The multiplier effect due to the intentional circulation could be hard to measure because there are so many social, economic, and even political ramifications of our intentionality when it comes to the African American dollar, but to say it would be a profound paradigm shift would be an understatement.
Quality, quality, quality! A word that I think HBCU’s should start focusing more on. Starting w/ the low hanging fruit of basic customer service with its students and faculty. We can do better.