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The 'Black Gold' rush.

African-American businesses across the nation are being courted by the Oklahoma Department of Commerce as part of an innovative business development program. "Black Gold," a one-year pilot program that began last August, makes financing and tax incentives available to black-owned businesses that relocate or establish new firms in Oklahoma. If successful, the program will operate on $438,000 in state funding over three years.

"I've looked at programs throughout the country, and this is the most progressive, challenging and compelling program overall," says James Johnson, director of the Oklahoma Department of Commerce Minority Business Office. "[Black Gold has] the ingredients to become a model for other states to follow."

Johnson says that in addition to encouraging new black-owned businesses to relocate to Oklahoma, the program would make attempts to expand many of the 3,461 existing black-owned firms in the state. "We wanted to increase the presence and participation of African-American businesses in the Oklahoma economy. We have pledged the resources to support those efforts."

The "Black Gold" program was developed from a proposal made by the Tulsa-based Greenwood Chamber of Commerce. The proposal is an outgrowth of local legislation that allows the state to match private venture funds through its Capital Investment Fund. Local venture-capital firms, such as ACME Capital Corp., Davis Venture Partners and Merrill Lynch Venture Partners, will join with the Capital Investment Fund to finance qualifying firms. CSGX Consulting, a Tulsa-based black-owned firm, has been retained to manage the project.

Under the terms of the proposal, tax incentives, such as investment tax credits, recycling facility tax credits, property tax exemptions and sales tax refunds and exemptions are also available to businesses relocating to designated "enterprise zones" within the state. Employee training programs will also be available to help new firms take full advantage of the state's labor pool.

Malcolm L. Buford, president of the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce board of directors, says the amount of financing that firms receive will depend on the resources of the venture-capital firms that participate. Businesses will have five to seven years to repay their funding. Several business proposals are under consideration.

"[We're looking for] a professional business plan with substantial opportunity for growth in order for us to recommend funding," Buford says. "We want companies that are in environmental services, manufacturing, high-tech/bio-technology businesses, distribution businesses and recycling."

To qualify for the "Black Gold" program, businesses must meet the following criteria: be owned by an African-American; have been in operation for at least two years; offer a unique product or service; be in an industry that has national or international scope and promising rates of growth; and have an experienced management team or be willing to accept appointed managers.

For more information about the Oklahoma "Black Gold" business development program, contact CSGX Consulting at 918-582-9181 or the Greenwood Chamber of Commerce at 918-586-6000.
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Title Annotation:Oklahoma's Afro-American business development program
Author:Wilson, Julia
Publication:Black Enterprise
Date:Mar 1, 1992
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