Contributed
Photo: External Affairs
Photo: External Affairs

Opinion: Acting on inequality of economic opportunity

We are in an important national conversation on systemic racism and the underlying inequality of economic opportunity in America. The Georgia Chamber and the business community will directly engage in dialogue and actively advocate for policies that create long-term job growth, mobility and equality for all Georgians. Doing so is essential for our collective prosperity.

By 2030, over 20% of Georgia’s population will be retired, leaving thousands of jobs and companies in need of talent while placing a challenging strain on our healthcare systems, social services, and the economy. Georgia will become a minority-majority state and must embrace a new understanding of intentional inclusion that celebrates diversity, addresses faults, and creates open and honest discussions.

A recent study by the National Bureau of Economic Research looked at the COVID-19 impact to U.S. small business operators and found that 22% were forced to temporarily or permanently close. The results illuminated the racial disparity of that economic impact. While only 17% of white business owners closed, 41% of black owners were forced to shut down their operations. This trend reached additional minority groups, too, with 32% Hispanic-owned, 26% Asian-owned, and 25% female-owned businesses closing.

Our state proudly leads the country with 20% minority-owned small businesses that employ over 275,000 Georgians. Despite that promising data, many minority entrepreneurs still struggle with access to capital, support infrastructure, and supplier contracts. The average minority-owned small business is 30% smaller and has 47% lower receipts. The disparity in business creation is echoed in today’s unemployment figures where Black Americans are experiencing a 16.8% unemployment rate compared to the general population at 13.3%. To make matters worse, over the next 10 years the United states will lose 39 million jobs to robotics and artificial intelligence. Those losses will disproportionately impact minority and rural workers.

Preparing future talent will require a commitment to correcting the racial disparities that exist today. There is no one-stop solution to this issue but consider these statistics. In rural areas, only 41% — combined – had access to take the SAT. And, provided they even obtain this basic education, black workers are 32% more likely to earn low wages than their white equivalent. So, where do we go from here?

First, we must look to build a better-opportunity ecosystem that supplies programming, education, and direction for all Georgians. Local chambers must adjust leadership programs to address systemic racial inequality and be intentionally inclusive. Communities should invest in financial infrastructure and create local innovation loan pools that are publicly and privately funded.

Next, companies should be intentionally inclusive in every single aspect of employee and customer engagement. According to TopCHRO, companies that build diverse teams are two times more likely to reach financial targets. Multi-generational teams that are purposefully inclusive perform at higher levels and are six times more likely to innovate. Businesses should also foster talent development strategies accessible to all employees.

Finally, we had to enact legislation that directly addressed the racial inequality facing Black Americans in our society. Until this week, Georgia was one of 5 states that had yet to address hate crimes within our laws. Thanks to the bipartisan leadership in the Georgia House and Senate, our state has demonstrated unwavering commitment to true equality for all. We are grateful for the overwhelming support from business and community leaders to support the passage of HB 426. We have clearly shown that when we work together, putting aside politics and division, we can build a better and brighter future for all.

All of these steps start by listening, engaging, and discussing disparities openly and without blame or judgment. To that end, the Georgia Chamber and the Atlanta Black Chambers will join together for a National Day of Dialogue on June 25 at 2:00 p.m.. We invite local chambers, partners, and businesses to join us for this event and further it by having your own local community dialogue.

In just 30 years, over 15 million diverse citizens will call Georgia home and during that time we have the unique opportunity to use the collective power of the business community and grow into a more equal and just society. With the support of The Atlanta Black Chambers, The Atlanta Business League, The Georgia Minority Supplier Development Council and The Georgia Greater Black Chamber of Commerce, we can create paths for greater economic mobility, help generations move into true economic growth, build a world-class core of talent, fill jobs, and form new companies that innovate and inspire. Then, and only then, will we achieve an economy that truly epitomizes the equality of opportunity for all.

Chris Clark is president and CEO of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.

Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism.
AJC.com. Atlanta. News. Now.

Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism.
AJC.com. Atlanta. News. Now.

With the largest team in the state, the AJC reports what’s really going on with your tax dollars and your elected officials. Subscribe today. Visit the AJC's Georgia Navigator for the latest in Georgia politics.

Your subscription to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism. Visit the AJC's Georgia Navigator for the latest in Georgia politics.

X