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Tips, tools and resources for Black business owners looking to make a strong recovery in 2021

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OPINION

By: Geneva Rodgers — Vice President, Small Business Solutions Advisor, Bank of America

2020 was a challenging year for all. While small businesses nationwide faced unique obstacles brought on by the coronavirus, Black small business owners, in particular, have been disproportionally impacted by the pandemic, with one study showing that half may not survive. Despite these challenges, our new research from Bank of America based on a survey of 300 Black business owners across the country found they remained resilient and flexible as they navigated through an evolving and uncertain business landscape. In response to the pandemic’s impacts, 48% of Black entrepreneurs retooled their operations – double that of the national average. Many Black business owners also found creative ways to reinvent themselves by developing new products or services and even more donated resources to support relief efforts in their local communities.

While it may be challenging to predict what exactly our path to economic recovery will look like, Black small businesses will play a significant role. Black entrepreneurs can take three steps to reignite growth and plan for financial success this year to support this vision.

Reevaluate your business plan given today’s environment. 

Due to changing landscapes and environments, it’s critical to evolve and adjust your business plan by mapping out key areas of need and growth and identifying any potential risk areas that you may have uncovered during the pandemic. Ask yourself, how did your business track last year against the projections you made heading into 2020? Are there successes from the second half of 2020 you can build on? What solutions worked best for your business as you managed the impact of the coronavirus? As we’re still in a time of uncertainty, err on the side of caution and ensure your plan allows room for evolution and adjustment as needed.   

Explore your financing options. 

Our team at Bank of America is taking steps to directly engage with minority business owners to ensure they have access to the tools and resources they need to secure funding. Our small business bankers will continue to support business owners as they navigate the Paycheck Protection Program process – as well as to discuss traditional loan product options to fit individual needs such as purchasing inventory, refinancing debt, or financing account receivables. When exploring financing options, a few questions to consider include: What goals have you identified in your business plan that require additional financing? Are you looking to boost your headcount? Did you have expansion plans that you held off on? Are any structural or technological enhancements needed in the coming year? Once you identify your goals for 2021 and beyond, sit down with your small business banker to determine the right financing solution for you.

Bankers can also help connect business owners who may not qualify for traditional bank financing to our network of CDFI partners across the country, working to increase access to capital for business owners who have historically faced barriers. Bank of America is the largest investor in CDFIs in the U.S., with more than $1.6 billion in loans and investments to over 250 CDFIs. We also recently committed $200 million to direct equity investments in Black- and Hispanic-Latino-owned businesses, to help supply growth capital and invest substantially in programs to create future entrepreneurs. 

Go digital. 

Businesses across the country have had to adjust their operations due to the public health crisis, including enhancing sanitation practices, changing primary revenue streams, and shifting sales from brick-and-mortar to online. As we continue to adhere to social distancing requirements, consider banking digitally to limit in-person interactions and free up time to remain focused on running your business. Connect with your banker on what digital options are available to you. For example, at Bank of America, we offer a full suite of small business digital capabilities, including Cash Flow Monitor, a no-cost dashboard that provides an easy way to manage, track and protect your business cash flow. 

The pandemic created unprecedented obstacles for Black small business owners, challenging them to find new and innovative ways to meet the needs of their businesses, employees, customers, and communities. Following the steps outlined above can help address whatever opportunities and challenges 2021 may bring. The news that is especially encouraging for the small business community in the Inland Empire is that our research found four-in-five Black entrepreneurs say that once we’re on the other side of the pandemic, they believe small business will return to being the backbone of the U.S. economy. We look forward to partnering with you and your business to make that a reality!

*This article is a guest post provided By Geneva Rodgers — Vice President, Small Business Solutions Advisor, Bank of America

The Inland Empire Business Journal (IEBJ) is the official business news publication of Southern California’s Inland Empire region - covering San Bernardino & Riverside Counties.

Banking & Financial Services

2024 Inland Empire Financial Summit: A Milestone in Economic Empowerment

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Uniting Leaders and Innovators for a Thriving Economic Future in Southern California’s Inland Region

The Inland Empire Regional Chamber of Commerce proudly announces the resounding success of the 2024 Financial Industry Update, a landmark event that convened key figures in California’s financial sector. Held on January 18, 2024, at the Ontario International Airport Authority Conference Center, this summit marked a significant moment for economic empowerment and collaboration in the region.

California State Treasurer Fiona Ma, the keynote speaker, expressed her admiration for the region’s financial community: “As State Treasurer, I find constant inspiration in California’s vibrant financial community. The 2024 Financial Industry Update event highlighted not only the dynamic Inland Empire economic landscape but also emphasized the crucial role of collaboration and forward-thinking in our sector. The meaningful discussions and connections formed here reflect our collective dedication to fostering a resilient and prosperous financial future for California. Proud to contribute to this vital conversation, I eagerly anticipate witnessing the positive impacts of our shared efforts unfold statewide.”

Ivo A. Tjan, Chairman, President & CEO of CommerceWest Bank, shared his enthusiasm: “It was an honor to be invited as a guest speaker. The IE has a strong, diversified, and robust business community that is an important economic engine for California. CommerceWest Bank is excited to continue supporting local businesses in the IE and expanding our footprint.”

Hilda Kennedy, President & Founder of AmPac Business Capital, praised the event’s impact: “The Inland Empire Chamber did it again! They brought relevant, high-level content to help businesses plan for success in 2024. State Treasurer Fiona Ma and Ivo Tjan were exceptional! I agree with State Treasurer Ma, the Inland Empire region will save California.”

Christina Scranage, Business Development Manager at Keystone Advanced Solutions, reflected on the event’s value: “Grateful for the insightful conference today! The speakers provided valuable information, making me optimistic about our community’s economic outlook. Huge thanks to everyone involved for such an informative and helpful event!”

The event was highlighted by the participation of industry leaders who provided invaluable insights into the region’s economic landscape. The Financial Industry Update served as a crucial platform for networking, knowledge sharing, and exploring the challenges and opportunities facing the financial sector in the Inland Empire and beyond.

For more information about the event and the Inland Empire Regional Chamber of Commerce, visit www.iechamber.org.

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Banking & Financial Services

All Eyes On The Fed… But Will It Change The US Forecast?

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Federal Reserve Policies At The Root Of Recent Bank Collapses; California: A Better Recovery Than We Thought!

The recession forecasted by so many still hasn’t shown up and is looking less and less likely to anytime soon, according to Beacon Economics‘ latest outlook for the United States and California. Moreover, the recent bank failures that have been capturing headlines are being ‘wrongly viewed’ as heralding a coming downturn, something that misses the actual drivers behind the collapses and that key economic data refutes.

“These bank failures are not a reflection of an unhealthy U.S. economy, they are all about Federal Reserve policy,” said Christopher Thornberg, Founding Partner of Beacon Economics and one of the forecast authors. “Sad by true; the body that is supposed to be the wise shepherd of the nation’s banking system is largely responsible for creating the very stressors that caused Silicon Valley Bank to fail, and the run on others to begin.”

According to the outlook, the U.S. banking system, overall, is the victim of quixotic and rapid changes in Fed policy over the last three years as they have tried to maintain both full employment and price stability – which can be mutually exclusive. “In their existential panic over full employment during the pandemic, the Fed destabilized prices by injecting historic amounts of cash into the economy; in their existential panic over price instability, they destabilized the banking system through interest rate increases,” said Thornberg.

The new outlook acknowledges that the sudden crosscurrents from the bank failures have made the forecast fuzzier because stress in the banking system will eventually show up in the broader economy in the form of tightening credit. However, the new forecast does not believe those stressors, on their own, will rise to the level of a recession. “Cash is still king in the U.S. economy,” said Thornberg. “But if the Fed decides to continue raising interest rates in its quest to slow inflation, it will do more damage to the bank credit industry and that will trigger negative consequences for the overall economy.”

Assuming the Fed slows their roll, which they’ve shown some signs of doing, Beacon Economics is expecting slow growth and no recession in the near-term future. The forecast has real U.S. GDP growth in the first quarter coming in between 1% and 2%, although the margin of error has increased given the policy uncertainty.

In terms of the macro economy, the new outlook points to copious evidence of its health: unemployment in the nation remains rock bottom, consumer spending continues despite inflation, earnings growth is still running above 6% for the median worker, U.S. household net worth remains 30% ($30 trillion) higher than it was pre-pandemic, banks are not experiencing an increase in problem loans, and interest rates have started to stabilize causing asset markets to do the same.

In California, the news grew rosier this month after the state released its annual employment revisions, although a declining workforce continues to hamper economic growth. The revision shows that California recovered more and faster from the pandemic’s job losses than previously estimated: There are 197,000 more people employed in the state today than there were pre-pandemic. The original estimates had the gain at a mere 70,000.

However, in terms of the percentage increase, California’s job growth has been about five times slower than states such as Florida and Texas. “The underperformance we’ve seen is certainly not due to any unwillingness on the part of the state’s employers to hire workers,” said Taner Osman, Research Manager at Beacon Economics and one of the forecast authors. “Rather, California’s labor force contracted during the pandemic and there are well over 300,000 fewer workers in the state today than there were before COVID hit; there are simply not enough workers to fill the number of job openings.”

Deeply linked to its declining workforce is California’s famously expensive housing market, where prices surged an astounding 41% during the early days of the pandemic. Today, higher interest rates have led to a collapse in demand and home sales have returned to their pre-pandemic trough. However, home prices remain 27% above where they were pre-pandemic and the new forecast only expects them to fall by 6.3% in 2023. “Given California’s acute long-term housing shortage, it’s not surprising that price drops will be limited,” said Osman. “And this isn’t anything like the Great Recession because consumer balance sheets are so much stronger today and unemployment rates are at all-time lows.”

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Banking & Financial Services

Why the Bank Failures Don’t Change the Economic Outlook (Mostly); Recession Remains Unlikely in 2023, Says Leading Forecast

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Federal Reserve Policies At The Root Of Recent Bank Collapses; California: A Better Recovery Than We Thought!

The recession forecasted by so many still hasn’t shown up and is looking less and less likely to anytime soon, according to Beacon Economics‘ latest outlook for the United States and California. Moreover, the recent bank failures that have been capturing headlines are being ‘wrongly viewed’ as heralding a coming downturn, something that misses the actual drivers behind the collapses and that key economic data refutes.

“These bank failures are not a reflection of an unhealthy U.S. economy, they are all about Federal Reserve policy,” said Christopher Thornberg, Founding Partner of Beacon Economics and one of the forecast authors. “Sad by true; the body that is supposed to be the wise shepherd of the nation’s banking system is largely responsible for creating the very stressors that caused Silicon Valley Bank to fail, and the run on others to begin.”

According to the outlook, the U.S. banking system, overall, is the victim of quixotic and rapid changes in Fed policy over the last three years as they have tried to maintain both full employment and price stability – which can be mutually exclusive. “In their existential panic over full employment during the pandemic, the Fed destabilized prices by injecting historic amounts of cash into the economy; in their existential panic over price instability, they destabilized the banking system through interest rate increases,” said Thornberg.

The new outlook acknowledges that the sudden crosscurrents from the bank failures have made the forecast fuzzier because stress in the banking system will eventually show up in the broader economy in the form of tightening credit. However, the new forecast does not believe those stressors, on their own, will rise to the level of a recession. “Cash is still king in the U.S. economy,” said Thornberg. “But if the Fed decides to continue raising interest rates in its quest to slow inflation, it will do more damage to the bank credit industry and that will trigger negative consequences for the overall economy.”

Assuming the Fed slows their roll, which they’ve shown some signs of doing, Beacon Economics is expecting slow growth and no recession in the near-term future. The forecast has real U.S. GDP growth in the first quarter coming in between 1% and 2%, although the margin of error has increased given the policy uncertainty.

In terms of the macro economy, the new outlook points to copious evidence of its health: unemployment in the nation remains rock bottom, consumer spending continues despite inflation, earnings growth is still running above 6% for the median worker, U.S. household net worth remains 30% ($30 trillion) higher than it was pre-pandemic, banks are not experiencing an increase in problem loans, and interest rates have started to stabilize causing asset markets to do the same.

In California, the news grew rosier this month after the state released its annual employment revisions, although a declining workforce continues to hamper economic growth. The revision shows that California recovered more and faster from the pandemic’s job losses than previously estimated: There are 197,000 more people employed in the state today than there were pre-pandemic. The original estimates had the gain at a mere 70,000.

However, in terms of the percentage increase, California’s job growth has been about five times slower than states such as Florida and Texas. “The underperformance we’ve seen is certainly not due to any unwillingness on the part of the state’s employers to hire workers,” said Taner Osman, Research Manager at Beacon Economics and one of the forecast authors. “Rather, California’s labor force contracted during the pandemic and there are well over 300,000 fewer workers in the state today than there were before COVID hit; there are simply not enough workers to fill the number of job openings.”

Deeply linked to its declining workforce is California’s famously expensive housing market, where prices surged an astounding 41% during the early days of the pandemic. Today, higher interest rates have led to a collapse in demand and home sales have returned to their pre-pandemic trough. However, home prices remain 27% above where they were pre-pandemic and the new forecast only expects them to fall by 6.3% in 2023. “Given California’s acute long-term housing shortage, it’s not surprising that price drops will be limited,” said Osman. “And this isn’t anything like the Great Recession because consumer balance sheets are so much stronger today and unemployment rates are at all-time lows.”

View the new The Beacon Outlook including full forecast tables here.

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