April 29, 1997
Harry C. Alford
National Black Chamber of Commerce

My name is Harry C. Alford, President and CEO, National Black Chamber of Commerce.

The NBCC is made up of 155 affiliated chapters located in 43 states. We have three (3) divisions - Eastern, Central, Western; nine (9) regions and 43 district offices. Through direct membership and via our affiliated chapters, the NBCC directly speaks on behalf of 60,000 Black owned businesses and represents the total populace of Black owned firms which, according to the US Census Bureau of Statistics, is over 620,000.

The NBCC is opposed to the two proposals presented by the EPA that would set a more stringent ozone standard and establish a new PM (particulate matter) standard for emissions at or below 2.5. The Clean Air Act of 1990 has made much progress in improving our environment. We sincerely feel that the continuance of this process will further improve the environment. To put more stringent demands on our businesses will have an extreme adverse impact on business in general with even higher stakes to lose for small businesses per se. If big business gets a "cold", small business gets the "flu" and Black owned business suffers "pneumonia".

An example of the above can be found in our campaign to develop business partnerships with the automobile industry. We have approached and are working with principals within the management of Ford, Chrysler and General Motors. One success story is that at the time of preliminary discussions with Chrysler, we had no Black owned architect, civil engineer or construction company performing work of over $1 million. Today, after just one year of interaction we have businesses in such disciplines actively working on or negotiating over $100 million worth of Chrysler expansion.

That is just one example, these three auto makers have expansion plans set for the cities of Arlington, TX, Oklahoma City, Kansas City, Fairfax, Mo., Shreveport. LA, Janesville and Kenosha, WI, Belvidere and Chicago, IL, St. Louis, Ft. Wayne, Kokomo and Indianapolis, IN, Flint, Lansing and Detroit, MI, Toledo, Twinsburg, Lima, Dayton, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Warren, OH, Louisville and Bowling Green, KY, Springhill, TN, Athens, MS, Atlanta, Eastern, NY, Linden and Edison, NJ, Wilmington and Newark, DE, Baltimore, and Norfolk, VA. This is an expansion investment of $37.9 billion which is the equivalent of total sales for all Black owned businesses combined! Just competing for this business and winning 10% would increase the total national output of America's Black owned businesses by over 10%.

It's a goal worth going after. However, it may not exist for the Black segment of this economy if the new standards go into effect. This is just the auto industry. We are busy creating alliances with the oil industry, electrical utilities, telecommunication companies, etc. The potential for economic parity and true capitalism in Black communities - THE MISSING LINK - is before us! Viable employment through an economic infrastructure in currently distressed neighborhoods is going to be the answer to improved health care, education, family values and the decrease in hopelessness, crime, welfare and violence. There just is no other way to do it.

We have heard coming out of EPA terms such as Environmental Justice and Environmental Racism. Such terms are not accurate in their description. They imply that the "evils of big business" conspire in back rooms to wreak havoc on minority communities via dumping of toxic/hazardous materials, etc. The coincidence of environmental hazards in minority communities is a matter of economics. Property values and shifts in desirable business properties are the main reasons. Minority populations just happen to live (after a cycle of geographical shifts) in these communities.

However, if there was ever a policy or a proposed regulation that could be considered directly adversarial to a particular segment of our population we may now have it. The proposed standards are going to hit urban communities the hardest. Of the 620,000 Black owned businesses at least 98% of them are located in urban areas (US Census). Hispanic and Asian businesses probably can claim the same. As mentioned above, Black owned businesses are presently at the end of the business "food chain". If business suffers, Black businesses will suffer the most. The main vehicle for Black community development is business start up and growth. The proposed standards will become predatory to Black owned businesses and all Black communities and we must vehemently protest them.

The NBCC has been quite successful since its conception in 1993. We have Black church organizations, educators, political leaders and traditional civil rights organizations talking about economics - the lack thereof - like never before. Corporate America has been waiting on Black communities to focus on the principles of capitalism which is the bloodline for our future and security. The time is before us and I foresee a rapid change in economic empowerment for communities that have suffered for too long. The EPA's attitude and it's proposals are counter to this trend and, thus, pose the biggest threat. The increased costs that will pain the Fortune 500 and maim small businesses will obliterate minority businesses, especially Black owned businesses. The end result is lost jobs and lack of capital infusion.

I personally lived in Detroit and Chicago during economic downturns. What was experienced by dwellers of these urban communities and others was not a pretty sight at all. Shame on us if we allow this to happen once again because we quickly move to make the Earth "pristine" in a fashion that will surely hurt our economic infrastructure.

Let us work in harmony toward making the environment as safe as possible without making those who have the least resources pay the most. The National Black Chamber of Commerce pleads with Congress to strongly consider the ills of the proposed standards and encourage EPA to be more thoughtful and universal in its approach.