10/05/2012 10:28 am ET Updated Dec 05, 2012

The Lynchpin of Recovery


Small businesses create more than half of all new American jobs. As we move closer to the 2012 presidential election it is apparent that the future of our economy hinges on creating more successful small businesses, particularly in urban communities most in need of new jobs. That means new resources and new opportunities for small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs determined to make their fortune as wealth and job creators.

Now is the time if we want to start reshaping our local communities, businesses, and economy. Immediate action and access, particularly for African-Americans, will create a solid foundation for inner cities across the country and the entire nation's economic security.

At the Chicago Urban League, we are working diligently to connect black business owners to valuable resources, real business opportunities in the public and private sectors, large corporations for mentoring, and to each other for strategic partnerships. Keeping with the overarching mission of our organization, we are also committed to keeping our community connected around key issues that impact economic development. Because of these goals and beliefs we didn't think twice about partnering with and promoting the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program. It was a smart move on many levels. Like our nextONE business accelerator program, 10,000 Small Businesses understands that small businesses need education and capital to grow. It brings all the key players to the table: government, academia, business, industry, and nonprofits.

The first class from the initiative graduated this past June and we were personally pleased to have several Chicago Urban League nextONE business accelerator alums complete the program. After garnering tangible information on how to secure capital in a volatile economy, learning valuable lessons of creative strategies to increase business opportunities, and ascertaining critical content for business growth, local Chicago small businesses, entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs were able to move the ball forward. They made it clear that it's not just about employing themselves, but being a driving force for job creation within the community.

The business owners are already seeing results. These business leaders are hiring new employees, venturing into new markets, and undertaking new services. Survey data from across the country suggests that six months after graduating, approximately 70 percent of the grads are growing and half are adding new jobs in their local communities.

One of the Chicago Urban League's own Kenneth Williams, president of The Shred Authority, has proved to be a standout leader. After acquiring the documental destruction company in 2005, Williams has gone on to create a new trademarked logo, new slogan, hire two additional workers and launch a new document storage business as an additional revenue stream to deepen relationships with his existing client base.

If small businesses are indeed the lynchpin of the recovery, as we have been told, then supporting them is critical to rebuilding the nation's economy. But there is no silver bullet. The government has invested money into small businesses, but not enough of those funds have come to the African-American community.

At the Chicago Urban League, we know a sustainable recovery will require investment and public-private partners willing to put skin in the game.  To learn more about the program and to apply, visit this website.