- Created on 11 October 2012
The U.S. Small Business Administration and U.S. Black Chamber Inc. have teamed up to help small minority businesses access guidance on federal contracting, face-to-face meetings, and match-making opportunities in teaming up with larger companies and graduates of SBA’s 8(a) Business Development program. The new partnership recently gave way to a one-day free National 8(a) Training, Business Matchmaking and Awards Ceremony held at the Carnegie Library in Washington, DC on October 10.
“SBA and U.S. Black Chamber are partners in a major effort to expand outreach and support to underserved minority business communities that have been hit harder by the economy than other sectors,” says SBA Deputy Administrator Marie C. Johns. The goal is to help participating companies leverage their assets and capabilities and to take businesses to a higher level.
Co-hosting this special event, “was an exceptional opportunity to partner with the SBA and provide a chance to recognize the firms who have worked diligently over the last year, despite harsh economic conditions, and managed to successfully grow their businesses,” adds Ron Busby, President and CEO of the U.S. Black Chamber Inc., the trade group supporting African American Chambers of Commerce and small business organizations nationwide.
During several scheduled forums, small businesses will learn how to market themselves to the federal government and go after federal contracting opportunities. The forum also will offer help with strategic alliances, joint venture opportunities, and mentor-protege arrangements within the 8(a) Program. The SBA encourages larger firms to team with a smaller firm to help with financing, management, and technical assistance
“The SBA does an incredible job of taking companies like mine and putting them together with companies that can enhance their business. They vet those particular companies and grow those companies that are part of 8(a),” says Keith Tillage, the co-owner of Tillage Construction LLC, an SBA assisted business based in Baton
Rouge, Louisiana. “I started with the 8(a) program in 2003. My company wouldn’t be where it is today without it.”
Tillage used the SBA’s help in developing a strategic business plan. The SBA also helped expand and increase the company’s contracting opportunities by linking the firm with federal agencies through the 8(a) program. The company’s first major client was the United States Department of Agriculture. Today, Tillage Construction is working federal contracts worth about $20 million.
Tillage Construction was a finalist for the 2012 Black Enterprise Small Business of the Year award and named the PTAC HUBZone Business of the Year. It was recognized in 2012 as one of the fastest growing private companies in America by Inc. 5000.
The family business has evolved from a simple hobby of making cabinets started by Keith’s father, Ken Tillage, 20 years ago into a full-service commercial construction company. After leaving corporate America, Keith teamed up with his father in 2000 to form Tillage Construction, a general contracting business specializing in design build, renovation, new construction, and demolition for the government and the private sector. Tillage Construction grew revenues 285% from $2 million in 2007 to $7.7 million in 2010. Revenues for 2011 topped $18.3 million with a staff of 16 full-time employees.
Not only does Tillage hire many of the residents from the Baton Rouge community, but he also utilizes as many subcontractors located in the area as possible. Those subcontractors who do not have the capacity to work on projects with Tillage Construction are encouraged to use the company as a resource and mentor to assist in their growth and development.
Tillage is excited about the National 8(a) Training and Matchmaking forum, noting how critical SBA programs are in helping small disadvantaged businesses to grow and compete in the open market. “I started very small and built my company brick by brick,” says Tillage. “You have to build your own capacity so that you get to a point where you are a viable player, where you can really sit down at the negotiation table and become a joint venture partner.”
- Created on 08 October 2012
Elaine Welteroth Lands Beauty And Health Director Position At Teen Vogue, Another Black Editor Hire At Condé Nast
Major hire alert!
We were thrilled a few weeks ago when Condé Nast announced the hire of its first-ever African American editor-in-chief, Keija Minor at Brides, and now comes news that Elaine Welteroth has been tapped as the new Beauty and Health Director at Teen Vogue.
Although the lack of diversity within the publishing industry remains, it's hires like these that provide a little more light at the end of the tunnel.
"We live in a multi-cultural world, so embracing diversity is important in every industry," Welteroth told Fashionista.com. "As it's related to publishing, I think magazines really benefit from having a staff with a range of different perspectives and cultural references so that any reader can feel like there is someone on the masthead they can relate to, someone they can trust to speak up for them. It’s great to see that idea being embraced more and more."
Welteroth will officially settle into her new gig on October 15, after wrapping up her current role as Senior Beauty Editor at Glamour (where she landed just one year ago after serving as the Beauty and Style editor at EBONY). The torch is being passed to Welteroth by Eva Chen, who became a mini Teen Vogue celeb for the brand in the Beauty and Health director role. Chen's popularity in the position is a credit to her 36,000+ Twitter followers and 24,000+ Instagram fans. Those are pretty high stilettos to fill, but we're sure Welteroth will fit them well.
Welteroth's move from Glamour to Teen Vogue doesn't require too much change in terms of job responsibilities--writing, editing, shooting, market work and covering all the social networks--however she will now be spouting advice to teens and dealing with the business side of publishing thanks to that "director" title.
And how did the curly-top cutie land this plum position?
"It’s all about preparation meeting the opportunity at the right time," Welteroth said. "I had the chance to learn from some really talented people who have taught me a lot. So, this next step is sort of the culmination of a lot of work, great mentorship, and perfect timing."
- Created on 06 October 2012
WASHINGTON (AP) — When conspiracists suggested Friday that the Obama administration had engineered a sharp drop in unemployment to aid President Barack Obama's re-election, the response was swift.
Career government officials, economists and even some Mitt Romney supporters issued a collective sigh.
The staffers who compute the U.S. unemployment rate work in an agency of the Labor Department. Officials who have overseen the work say it's prepared under tight security with no White House input or supervision.
"To think that these numbers could be manipulated. ... It's impossible to do it and get away with it," said Keith Hall, a former commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the agency that calculates the unemployment rate.
"These numbers are very trustworthy," said Hall, who was appointed by President George W. Bush and whose four-year term ended in January.
The figures that produce the unemployment rate are crunched by several dozen people at the bureau. The only BLS employee appointed by the White House is the commissioner, who operates independently of the White House.
The job is now vacant but is being handled by Acting Commissioner John Galvin, who has worked at the BLS for 34 years.
Yet conspiracy theorists came out in force Friday after the government reported a sudden drop in unemployment a month before Election Day — to 7.8 percent for September from 8.1 percent in August.
Their message: The Obama administration would do anything to ensure a November victory, including manipulating unemployment data. Labor Department officials, joined by Democrats and some Republicans, called the charges implausible.
That didn't stop the chatter. The allegations were a measure of how politicized the monthly unemployment report has become near the end of a campaign that's focused on the economy and jobs.
The conspiracy erupted after former General Electric CEO Jack Welch, a Republican, tweeted his skepticism five minutes after the BLS announced the unemployment rate at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time.
"Unbelievable jobs numbers..these Chicago guys will do anything..can't debate so change numbers," Welch tweeted, referring to the site of the Obama campaign headquarters.
The drop in unemployment was announced two days after Obama's lackluster performance in his first debate with Romney.
Republican Rep. Allen West of Florida soon announced via Facebook that he agreed with Welch.
"Somehow by manipulation of data we are all of a sudden below 8 percent unemployment, a month from the presidential election," West wrote. "This is Orwellian to say the least."
The Obama administration was forced to defend Labor's statisticians and economists against accusations that came without supporting evidence.
"No serious person ... would make claims like that," said Alan Krueger, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers.
The monthly jobs report is prepared with raw data collected by Census workers. The workers interview Americans in about 60,000 households or visit them door-to-door.
People are asked whether they're employed and, if so, whether their jobs are full or part time. The Census workers gather other information about the respondents' education, age and gender and ask whether they're self-employed.
Most of the interviews are done in the week that includes the 19th day of the month. The resulting pile of data is transferred securely by Census to BLS about a week before the jobs report is due.
The office suites where the report is prepared and compiled goes on lockdown. Employees can't access the area without a hard pass. Staffers working on a paper copy of the report are expected to keep it under lock and key if they aren't at their desk — even when they go to lunch.
The security isn't just about keeping the data free of political pressure. The unemployment figures, if leaked early, could improperly move financial markets.
Tom Nardone, a 36-year veteran of the BLS, oversees the report's preparation. The goal, Nardone said, is to make the report as accurate and "apolitical" as possible.
"We strive to be like Joe Friday, just presenting the facts," he said.
A draft of the report is completed by early Wednesday before the Friday when it's released. Several groups of staffers review it. That Wednesday is usually the earliest that the commissioner of the BLS gets involved.
On Thursday afternoon, the report is sent to the White House's Council of Economic Advisors. Krueger provides a copy to the president.
Hilda Solis, Obama's labor secretary, doesn't see the report until around 8 a.m. Friday, a half-hour before its public release.
A week later, Labor releases the raw data on its website. Many academics use the data, which is stripped of all identifying information, for their own research.
The commissioner is the BLS' only political appointee. And even he or she operates independently of the presidential administration. The Obama administration has selected a new commissioner: Erica Groshen, a vice president at the New York Federal Reserve. She has yet to be approved by the Senate.
On Friday, Romney refrained from discrediting the government data. But plenty of conservatives did that work for him.
Conn Carroll, an editorial writer at the Washington Examiner, tweeted: "I don't think BLS cooked numbers. I think a bunch of Dems lied about getting jobs. That would have same effect."
Rick Manning, communications director of Americans for Limited Government and a former public affairs chief of staff at the Labor Department, said "anyone who takes this unemployment report serious is either naive or a paid Obama campaign adviser."
Rep. Paul Broun, a Georgia Republican, weighed in with a statement saying the report "raises questions for me, and frankly it should be raising eyebrows for people across the country."
Conspiracy theories are nothing new for Obama. He has been dogged by discredited claims that he wasn't born in this country and that he is Muslim.
On Friday, one leading Republican sided with Obama's team in rejecting the latest accusations.
"Stop with the dumb conspiracy theories. Good grief," Tony Fratto, a strategist who was a top communications official in the Bush White House, tweeted.
Mayerowitz reported from New York.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.
- Created on 07 October 2012
Many are dealing with big pension bills by reducing retirement benefits. Here's a look at 10 states that have taken steps to address unfunded pension liabilities — or the amount of money the state has to pay out but for which it has no funding in the pension pool.
Unfunded liability: $100 billion in the Public Employees' Retirement System and $65 billion in the State Teachers' Retirement System.
Changes: Gov. Jerry Brown last month signed legislation expected to save billions of dollars in coming years by increasing the retirement age for new employees, limiting annual pension payouts to $132,120 and requiring workers who are not contributing half of their retirement costs to pay more. San Diego this year moved its city workers to a defined contribution plan similar to a 401(k).
Court challenges: Recent pension changes in San Diego and San Jose are being challenged. A state worker's organization says it's considering a challenge to the state changes.
Unfunded liability: $85 billion.
Changes: The state has reduced benefits for new employees, but efforts to do so for existing employees and retirees have stalled. The changes for new employees include raising the retirement age to 67 and ending 3 percent cost of living raises, compounded annually, for their pensions. Instead, new employees qualify only for raises of 3 percent or half the inflation rate, whichever is lower.
Unfunded liability: $9.2 billion.
Changes: Over the past two years, the state has committed to additional funding for the pension system. It wants to give existing employees the choice of increasing the percentage of their salaries going into pensions. It's also starting a new plan for workers hired after 2014 that moves toward a 401(k)-style plan, in which workers contribute a lump sum and are guaranteed at least 5.25 percent in interest earnings annually.
Unfunded liability: $30 billion.
Changes: Lawmakers suspended pension increases this year, raised the retirement age for new hires in 2008 and raised the employee contribution in 2008 from 5 percent to 6 percent of their wages.
Unfunded liability: $18 billion.
Changes: In recent years, lawmakers have made changes to increase the retirement age and retirement benefits for new workers, but Gov. Bobby Jindal's attempt to change benefits for existing workers failed to win legislative support.
Court challenges: A plan to switch new state employees to a cash balance plan with many of the features of a 401(k)-style account is tied up in litigation.
Unfunded liability: $4.26 billion.
Changes: The state cut benefits in 2009 and 2011, has raised some retirement ages and increased contributions from employees. Some lawmakers plan to push legislation to create 401(k)-style retirement plans next year.
Court challenges: Lawsuits challenging the increased member contributions and benefit changes are pending.
Unfunded liability: $41.7 billion.
Changes: In 2011, a law increased pension contribution requirements for public employees and suspended pension increases.
Court challenge: A judge sued, saying the increased pension and health care contributions amounted to an unconstitutional salary reduction for judges. A court agreed, and now there's a call to amend the state constitution to allow the changes.
Unfunded liability: $9 billion.
Changes: In March, state leaders, facing union opposition, reached a budget agreement to reduce pension benefits for future public workers, requiring higher contributions and lowering the retirement age from 63 to 62. The changes are projected to save local governments $80 billion over 30 years. It omitted Gov. Andrew Cuomo's proposal for a defined contribution alternative for all future employees.
New York has one of the healthier state pension systems in the country, thanks in part to a law requiring the state to make annual contributions to the pension system.
Unfunded liability: $10.6 billion.
Changes: In 2011, lawmakers eliminated the common practice of approving an automatic 2 percent pension increase and required that all future increases be funded by the Legislature. Other changes included increasing the retirement age for some future employees.
Unfunded liability: $4 billion; was $7 billion before recent changes.
Changes: Last year, lawmakers suspended pension increases, raised retirement ages for many workers and created a new type of retirement plan that combines traditional pensions with 401(k)-style accounts.
Court challenge: Public-sector unions are suing to block the changes, which they say are illegal and unfair.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.
- Created on 05 October 2012
Photo caption: In this Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012, photo, job hunter Bessie Soley, of Locust Grove, Ga., files out an application at the National Job Fair in Atlanta. The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits rose to a seasonally adjusted 367,000, a level consistent with only modest hiring on Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012. The Labor Department says applications increased last week by 4,000 from the previous week's level of 363,000. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
WASHINGTON (AP) — The September jobs report that arrives Friday, a month before the presidential election, will likely sketch a dual picture: The job market continues to heal. Yet it's far from full health.
No incumbent since Franklin Roosevelt has faced re-election with unemployment so high. The rate was 8.1 percent in August, up from 7.8 percent when President Barack Obama took office in January 2009. Economists predict that the rate reached 8.2 percent in September, according to a survey by FactSet.
It would be the 44th straight month in which unemployment has topped 8 percent.
Still, the job market has been improving, sluggishly but steadily. Jobs have been added for 23 straight months. There are now 125,000 more than when Obama took office. Economists predict 111,000 more were added in September.
The administration's defenders argue that Obama shouldn't be held accountable for job losses early in his term. When he became president in the midst of the Great Recession, the job market was collapsing. In January 2009, the economy lost 818,000 jobs, the grimmest showing since 1949. In the first four months of his presidency, 3 million jobs vanished.
Obama's economic prescriptions, particularly an $862 billion stimulus plan, didn't kick in until months after his inauguration.
Since bottoming in February 2010, the economy has added about 4.4 million jobs. And private companies have added more than 5 million — a figure the White House likes to emphasize.
But job gains in the private sector have been partly blunted by layoffs by state and local governments.
And as voters prepare to decide whether to back Obama or his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, many of the job market's vital signs are faint:
— More than 5 million people have been out of work for six months or more, up from 2.7 million when Obama took office. Before 2009, in records dating to 1948, the number of long-term unemployed had never reached 3 million. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has called long-term unemployment a "national crisis" that is causing millions to lose job skills.
— Pay for private-sector employees, when adjusted for inflation, has dropped 1.6 percent since Obama took office. In a weak job market, employers have little reason to offer significant raises.
— The percentage of Americans either working or looking for work fell to a 31-year low of 63.5 percent in August. That's partly because the vast generation of baby boomers has begun to retire. But another key factor is that hundreds of thousands of Americans have given up looking for work.
— More than 23 million Americans are either unemployed, stuck in part-time jobs because they can't find full-time work or want a job but have stopped looking. Romney used that figure to attack Obama's economic policies in Wednesday night's debate.
Few economists expect the job market to return to full health soon. The Federal Reserve, for instance, doesn't foresee unemployment falling below a normal level of roughly 6 percent before 2016.
Many economists say the recovery's persistent struggles are mainly the result of two causes: a financial crisis that dried up credit and a housing bust that left consumers feeling poorer and less willing to spend.
The U.S. economy, slowed by government cuts, weak manufacturing, a European economic crisis and tepid consumer spending, has been growing at a meager annual pace well below 2 percent. That is too tepid to generate strong job growth and significantly reduce unemployment.
High unemployment can cost presidents the White House. Unemployment was 7.8 percent when voters ousted President Gerald Ford in 1976. It was 7.5 percent when President Jimmy Carter lost to Ronald Reagan in 1980.
But Reagan survived 7.2 percent unemployment in 1984 to win re-election. Voters, who had seen the rate tumble from a peak of 10.8 percent two years earlier, felt the economy was improving.
Reagan's experience suggests that the level of unemployment matters less to voters than the direction in which it's heading.
Which might be good news for Obama's re-election hopes: Unemployment has fallen well below its October 2009 peak of 10 percent.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.