Real Change for North Omaha Will Start with Investments

The content is from Omaha World Herald

This week, I’m writing about economics, and all of its elements, including the impact of investments financially and otherwise. Slavery (free labor) was the first jolt to the economics of black folks. Later came the massacres in Tulsa, Oklahoma (1921), and Rosewood, Florida (1923), and now the urban economic decay that includes North Omaha.

There is an undeniable interconnectivity of the effects of racism to the other calls for change, i.e. mass incarceration, joblessness, health disparities, housing ownership, mental health, educational gaps and wealth disparity. If we can’t fix racism but do fix wealth disparity, we will have an impact on all of the rest.

Below is a recommended framework for short- and long-term investments in North Omaha that would positively impact all of the aforementioned disparities, reduce a percentage of the senseless crime committed by those within the urban poverty cycle who look to crime as the only way to survive. The investments need to come from the following citywide sectors:

Private sector, including corporate

1. Private corporations need to evaluate the corporate culture as to its sensitivity and receptivity to diversity. Seek input from and feedback from those who are with you now, as well as from outside credible and trusted sources.

2. Evaluate the diversity in the boardroom, executive suites and management pipelines.

3. Make commitments to buy professional services, goods and services from the vast number of small but capable businesses from the depressed North and South Omaha communities.

4. When constructing, ensure that the general contractor makes a concerted effort to include small subcontractors from the depressed communities of North and South Omaha. It is the owner of the project who sets the tone.

5. Evaluate opportunities for joint ventures, and invest in projects that would benefit the growth of North and South Omaha.

6. Make a multimillion-dollar investment in entrepreneurship and support for black-led businesses and organizations. Commit to do business with black and North Omaha businesses.

Public Sector: federal, state and local

1. Do a complete evaluation of the impediments to small and emerging businesses and make appropriate changes.

2. Seek representatives from the small and emerging business community to assist and get input in challenges of doing business.

3. Understand the positive impact on the depressed community of doing business with small businesses.

4. Make a multimillion-dollar investment in the infrastructure in North Omaha, with incentives to recruit employers, home ownership and housing renovations. Make street improvements, support entrepreneurship centers and incubators, arts and culture, and business districts along 24th, 30th and Ames corridors.

5. Develop a strategic economic development plan with the state.

Philanthropic/Foundation sector

1. In addition to the wonderful contributions that so positively assist our community and its nonprofits, conduct a review that focuses on the organizations that are strategic to the health, cultural survival, growth and survival of the impoverished community. So many of our very important nonprofits, while receiving assistance, are struggling to survive.

2. Invest in education, poverty alleviation, mental and behavioral health supports, access to healthy food, cultural organizations and venues, early childhood education, housing developments and support for wealth creation and ownership in struggling communities.

Financial sector

1. Our financial institutions need to re-evaluate their presence as it relates to the Community Reinvestment Act, and their strategic lending practices that could be directed toward growth and survival of our community and small businesses.

2. North Omaha needs increased community development partners from our financial community.

3. Investments to support access to credit and capital to support small businesses and home ownership, down payment assistance, renovation and home improvement loans, workforce development and employment initiatives.

The return on investment, from all of the listed sectors, will include:

  • A more self-sufficient and self-reliant North Omaha.
  • Increase in disposable income that will stay, and spend, within the community.
  • An increase in community entrepreneurship and its impact on jobs.
  • A reduction of talent and brain drain from the community.
  • An increase in home ownership.
  • An increase in the tax base.
  • The ability of the community to support its own nonprofits.
  • The long-term development of wealth and self-sufficiency within the community.
  • Direct positive linkage to existing negative social disparities.

The framework that we have outlined above, is just that, a framework. Specific line-item investments will be articulated by groups from the North Omaha community, including the Empowerment Network’s facilitated recommendations, and by many other groups joining them or coming forward. It is my hope that each of the sectors will understand and adopt this framework and partner with community on specific forthcoming recommendations. Adopting the framework is an immediate first-step, action item.

Preston Love Jr. is a longtime Omaha civic engagement activist who also teaches black studies at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.