President Barack Obama’s National Export Initiative (NEI) hit a milestone on 15 May 2013 as a delegation of business officials and Commerce Department officials traveled to Brazil, Colombia, and Panama during the one year anniversary of a free trade agreement (FTA) between the United States and Colombia. The FTA was designed to increase the amount of trade between the two nations by removing tariffs or taxes that make goods and services sold in each country more expensive to the consumer.
For example, 80% of American goods and services sold in Colombia became duty-free (import tax) on the first day of the FTA. By year five of the FTA, 95% of American goods and services should become duty-free.
Brazil, Colombia, and Panama are emerging markets driven by growth in consumer spending and increased production. To sustain the growth in their economies, Brazil, Colombia, and Panama will need further investment in infrastructure. Specifically, investment is needed in project management (construction, architecture, and design); transportation (roads/highways, rail, airports, intelligent transportation systems); energy (distribution, transmission, and grids); water resources management (water treatment, distribution, collection); and safety and security.
Are Black Americans getting ahead of the movement to serve emerging markets? Blacks are represented in the employment areas that may be demanded by investment in infrastructure although there is room for improvement in representation. According to the U.S. Bureau of Statistics, of the 195,000 individuals employed as architects in the U.S., 1.3% are Black American. Over five percent of all civil engineers in the U.S. are black and Black Americans make up 4.5% of available American first line supervisor talent in construction.
In general, the minority business community appears to exhibit experience and greater success in exporting, experience that can be leveraged under the NEI. According to a report published by the U.S. Bureau of the Census, Black American-owned firms that export appear to earn greater revenues than Black American-owned firms that do not. For example, the average annual receipts for a black-owned firm that does not export is approximately $64,000. For black-owned firms that do export, annual receipts average $ 8 million.
In addition, Black American-owned firms that export higher relatively larger numbers of paid employees than firms that do not export. All exporting firms have at least one paid employee, according to the Census Bureau’s analysis. Forty-two percent of exporting firms had one to four employees; 13% had 10 to 19 employees; and five percent of exporting firms had 100 to 499 employees.
On the other hand, 13% of non-exporting Black American-owned firms had no paid employees, while 56% of such firms had between one to four paid employees. Eight percent of non-exporting firms had 10 to 19 employees while less than one percent of non-exporters had 100 to 499 employees.
The statistics paint a positive picture of participation by Black American business in the exporting sector and the NEI could open more doors to even greater expansion and employment.