Category: Business Written by Diane I. Daniels
GROWING POSSIBILITIES—Bill Strickland, executive director of Bidwell Cultural Center and Governor Aregbesola share a moment in the Green house. (Photo by Diane I. Daniels)
Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, governor of Osun State, Nigeria described his recent visit to Allegheny County as very fulfilling and beneficial from the beginning to the end. Already planning a return trip he said, “I am looking forward to building on the relationships I have made.”
In the region last month, the purpose of the visit from Aregbesola and high ranking members of his administration was to meet with government officials, business and community leaders from Allegheny County to discuss, strategize about and learn ways the two areas can work together and learn from each other.
The second visit to the area for delegates of Aregbesola’s administration, the goal of this stopover was to continue establishing partnerships in the areas of transformational leadership practices, business-to-business partnerships and win-win investment opportunities, educational exchange programs, import and export relationships, green technology and environment, health care, agriculture and cultural exchange and tours.
The purpose of previous visits has been to learn from Pittsburgh’s transformation from a heavily polluted smoky city to a city now globally recognized as a green leader that has successfully managed to improve its economy and environmental stewardship.
While in the region last month, the Governor met with Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and officials from Carnegie Mellon University. He visited and toured the sites of the Manchester Bidwell Training Center, the Braddock Pot Shop and also strengthened relationships with LavaLux LED.
A Roundtable Business Forum was held at the Kingsley Center co-hosted by Christian Evangelistic Economic Development and the Allegheny County Department of Minority, Women and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise, headed by Ruth Byrd-Smith.
The Forum provided the opportunity for discussions to occur about current business opportunities in Nigeria and possible international trade partnerships, and investment opportunities for small businesses. “The Roundtable was the second in our series of meetings to connect Southwestern Pennsylvania small businesses and institutions to the dynamic global market,” said Rufus Idris, executive director of CEED.
“The governors visit was successful,” Idris said. “The relationships that were established will be beneficial to both regions.” One relationship he is referring to is the signing of a mutual agreement between the governor and county executive to conduct business. “I see many similarities between our two regions,” pointed out Fitzgerald. “Twenty to 30 years ago young people were leaving the area, but now they are returning because the region is revitalizing. That would not be happening if it were not for the collaboration of government, universities and public and private entities. The lessons learned are that if you don’t work together you can’t move forward.”
Aregbesola pointed out that Osun State also has devised a strategy to empower their youth that makes up more than 45 percent of their population. He said through the Osun Youth Empowerment Scheme they have engaged 20,000 youth volunteers to provide community services in exchange for a monthly stipend. They too are partnering with the private sector and the education system.
Developing a mutual respect for one another and impressed with their successes, Aregbesola, Bill Strickland, executive director of the Bidwell Training Center, Richard Wukich of the Braddock Pot Shop and officials of LavaluxLED are negotiating to conduct business. Sharing his philosophy that the development of human capacity is the most important responsibility of any serious government, he says as governor of Osun, he has focused on strengthening the state in the areas of agriculture, economic development, youth employment, education and security. The three regional organizations fit within his scope of focus.
Bidwell, located on the North Side, offers training in specialized technology, culinary arts, horticulture technology and the medical industry. The Braddock Pot Shop, a ceramics program based in the basement of the Carnegie Library in Braddock, is also a water filter factory. LavaluxLED based in Ambridge is a manufacturer and supplier of LED lighting products for indoor and outdoor applications.
Considered a rising star in the Nigerian political firmament, Gov. Aregbesola is an engineer and political activist who between 1999 and 2007 superintended the bold beginnings of the infrastructural transformation of Lagos, one of the world’s largest megacities. Widely acknowledged as an exceptional grassroots campaigner and mobilizer, he has served as governor since 2010.
As governor of Osun, his bold vision for the state is encapsulated in a Six Point Integral Action Plan to banish poverty, hunger and unemployment; to restore healthy living; to promote functional education and to enhance communal peace and progress. His plan seeks to ensure that the fruits of economic development positively impact as many lives as possible.
Aregbesola’s interest in politics dates back to his undergraduate days, when he served as the Speaker of the Students’ Union Parliament at The Polytechnic, Ibadan, his alma mater. His interest, which is anchored in values, again came to the forefront during Nigeria’s bloody struggles against military rule in the 1990s when he emerged as a leading light of the pro-democracy movement. It continues to manifest today in his advocacy for fiscal federalism and regional integration as means of attaining sustainable economic development and peaceful coexistence in the fractious Nigerian federation.
Believing that he has sewn seeds of collaboration within the Allegheny County region, Aregbesola’s message to entrepreneurs and organizational leaders is to develop strong links to Africa. “One must explore by conducting test cases and inquiring about opportunities within the Country.” He stressed that constant communication with CEED is a way to keep abreast of their activities.
CEED is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that provides free micro-enterprise and small business start-up support to area businesses, both in the City of Pittsburgh and the 10 surrounding counties. They work to create opportunities for community growth and economic sustainability throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania using a small business assistance program called SKILLS TO WEALTH.
The various meetings and events throughout the governors visit were sponsored by CEED, the Allegheny County MWDBE Department, the Kinsley Association, Union of African Communities in Southwestern Pennsylvania and the Osun State Government.
Pleased with the outcome of the governors visit, Rev. Ray Parker founder of CEED said he looks forward to the relationships and possibilities that lay ahead. “We will continue to serve as the lead agency and liaison to spearhead activities between Osun State and this region.”
Last Updated on Wednesday, 06 March 2013 10:05
Category: Business Written by Courier Newsroom
MARCH 7—The MWDBE Governmental Committee will host the 12th Annual Conference for Minority, Women and Disadvantage Business Enterprises from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. at the IBEW Conference Center, 3 Hot Metal St., South Side. The theme is “Mind Your Ps: Preparation, Process, Procurement and Performance.” Guest panelists will be Greg Spencer, Barbara Weaver, Elizabeth Bowers, Deborah Wojcik and Nathan Heitzman. Registration is required. For more information, call 412-402-2460.
The First Step
Risk Only Money
Brown Bag Lunch
Business Women Reception/
Last Updated on Wednesday, 06 March 2013 10:03
Category: Business Written by Associated Press
WORLD”S RICHEST-- Mexican telecommunications tycoon Carlos Slim speaks during news conference at the Soumaya museum in Mexico City. (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills, File)
Last Updated on Monday, 04 March 2013 18:18
Category: Business Written by CNN
by Tami Luhby
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- When Debbie Bruister buys a gallon of milk at her local Kroger supermarket, she pays $3.69, up 70 cents from what she paid last year.
Getting to the store costs more, too. Gas in Corinth, Miss., her hometown, costs $3.51 a gallon now, compared to less than three bucks in 2012. That really hurts, considering her husband's 112-mile daily round-trip commute to his job as a pharmacist.
Bruister, a mother of four, received a $1,160 raise this school year at her job as an eighth-grade computer teacher. The extra cash -- about $97 a month, before taxes and other deductions -- isn't enough for her and her husband to keep up with their rising costs, especially after the elimination of the payroll tax break. Its loss shrunk their paychecks by more than $270 a month.
"If you look at how much prices are going up, you get in the hole really quick," Bruister said. "It's a constant squeeze."
In the wake of the Great Recession, millions of middle-class people are being pinched by stagnating incomes and the increased cost of living. America's median household income has dropped by more than $4,000 since 2000, after adjusting for inflation, and the typical trappings of middle-class life are slipping out of financial reach for many families.
Families with young kids are struggling to afford childcare and save for the ever-climbing costs of college. Those nearing retirement are scrambling to sock away funds so they don't have to work forever. A weak labor market means that employed Americans aren't getting the pay raises they need to keep up -- especially with big-ticket items such as health care eating away at their paychecks.
Economists say it boils down to two core problems: jobs and wages. The traditional "middle-class job" is disappearing.
Mid-wage occupations such as office managers and truck drivers accounted for 60% of the job losses during the recession, but only 22% of the gains during the recovery, according to a National Employment Law Project analysis of Labor Department data. Low-wage positions, on the other hand, soared 58%.
Uncertainty and insecurity are weighing down the middle class, even those who haven't had a break in employment. More than 40% of those surveyed in a recent Rutgers University study said they were "very concerned" about job security.
They're also not very optimistic about the near future. Fewer than one-third believe that economic conditions will improve next year, and an equal number think they will get worse, according to the Rutgers survey, conducted by the university's Heldrich Center for Workforce Development. Only 19% believe that job, career and employment opportunities will be better for the next generation.
The survey's title sums it up: "Diminished Lives and Futures: A Portrait of America in the Great-Recession Era."
Dan Heiden of Eagan, Minn., embodies that life. Before 2007, the union supermarket worker owned an apartment and socked away funds in the bank and in a retirement account.
Then the store cut his hours.
"The economy tanked," said Heiden, who now works no more than 30 hours a week. "They aren't hiring full-time any more because they can pay less."
The 37-year-old had to sell his apartment and move into his parents' basement. He has also curtailed his social life, eating out less and hanging out with friends at their homes instead of going to bars. He's depending more on credit cards and is no longer able to save much for retirement.
"Luckily, I don't have a family, because then it would be a tighter squeeze," Heiden said. "I just pray and hope the economy turns around."
Full-time employment is one casualty of the recession. The number of people working part-time for economic reasons -- meaning that they would like longer hours but can't find work -- has soared to nearly 8 million, up from 4.8 million five years ago.
Those with full-time jobs are also feeling the pressure.
Take Lois Karhinen, 55, who has been working since she was a teen. A state employee in New York, she's worried she and her husband won't have enough money saved by the time she wants to retire in 11 years.
Her husband is a government contract worker, and they fear his job could disappear any day. Their income has taken a hit because she has been furloughed several days since 2011. At the same time, her health insurance payments, union dues and other expenses have gone up.
The couple is no longer able to cover all of their monthly expenses -- including the mortgage, car loans, home repair loans and student debt -- with their paychecks alone.
"I watch every month our savings deplete," said Karhinen, who lives in Queensbury, N.Y. "I'm realizing we're not young enough to save a lot."
The downturn in the housing market also hurts. The couple bought their house in 2006, hoping it would serve as an investment and help support their retirement. But now, they would only break even if they sold it, she says -- if they were lucky.
The mortgage crisis "hollowed out" the middle class, said Tamara Draut, vice president of policy and research at Demos, a public policy research organization. Much of their wealth is tied into home values, but national home prices are still 29% below their mid-2006 high, according to S&P Case-Shiller.
That means some folks have lost all their home equity and may never get it back. Others can't take out loans to finance repairs, college for the kids and other expenses.
There's one more big squeeze hitting households: health care. Since 2002, insurance premiums have increased 97%, rising three times as fast as wages, according to Kaiser Family Foundation/Health Research & Educational Trust.
In Mississippi, Bruister now has an $1,800 deductible, compared to $500 a few years ago. When she goes to the doctor, the bill typically tops $100 -- so she tries to avoid going.
"Health care for me has turned into more of a luxury item," said Bruister, 52. "I go every year for the checkups my insurance pays, but after that you just tough out the other illnesses."
Economists say they don't expect much improvement for the middle class any time soon. The recession is officially over, but the recovery is fragile, and its gains aren't evenly spread. Between 1993 and 2011, the top 1% of America's earners saw their income soar by 58%, while everyone else only got a 6% bump.
That's making it even harder for most households to get ahead.
"The middle class was always synonymous with economic security and stability," Draut said. "Now it's synonymous with economic anxiety."
Last Updated on Tuesday, 05 March 2013 14:31
Category: Business Written by William Reed
(NNPA)—“Direct my footsteps according to your Word”—Psalm 119:133
The gospel song, “Order My Feet in Your Word,” happens to be a popular tune. It’s a good theme for life and a personal request to God to “Prepare my goings in your paths and not let evil rule over me.” However, to impose order on “your steps” requires practical techniques and applications.
What procedures are involved if you want to “walk worthy” through life? A new and empowering book titled, “The Spirit Within: Embracing God’s Living Spirit for a Healthier Life,” just might be the answer. It’s a timely guide that helps readers “order” their lives in both practical and spiritual ways. Author Alan E. Miller said, “Knowledge of God and his works in your life is empowering.” Miller said, “You can enjoy a healthy life by having an accurate view of God in your heart and mind and letting that shape your life every day.”
In Africans’ traditional life, spirituality is the foundation of one’s being. A believer’s destiny is bound up in spiritual pursuits throughout his life. In contemporary America, many Blacks search for their “spiritual enlightenment” and “true selves.” But, empowerment is achieved only through utilization of fundamental leadership and management techniques. In the book, “The Spirit Within,” Miller shows readers “how to walk” in productive and spiritual ways. The book provides a combination of plans for one’s life, scripture references, and exercises to refresh your spirit, refine your life, and refocus your goals and passions.
Miller said that “inspirational and religious book buyers, church members and leaders” are the target audience. He said it is a valuable tool that “no home should be without” and that “it should be read by every house member.” He said the book’s “first-hand accounts of spirituality” can lead to “better, healthier lifestyles.” In the “Spirit Scripture Index” section, readers can find a complete list of spiritual references that appear throughout the Bible.
Traditional and contemporary studies relate happiness, morale, and health to spirituality. Many older Blacks are saying that “religion helps them cope or adapt with losses or difficulties.” For insights on “the Spirit inside each of us,” Black church groups, book clubs, parents and student groups, or other gatherings, should give Miller a call. Instead of booking the local TV weatherman, church members, business executives and organizations would do well in their outreach, training, spiritual coaching and fundraising utilizing Miller and his publication for their programs. In conjunction with the publication, the Miller Group also offers one-day seminars comprised of discussion groups, testimonies, and spiritual awareness sessions.
“Freedom begins with the freeing of the mind and soul” said Miller. Regarded as a modern-day Renaissance man, Miller is an artist, published poet, accomplished playwright and a corporate diversity marketing counselor. Miller’s also a certified “Fruit of the Spirit” instructor. Better grounded than those whose job it is just to read the news on TV, Miller knows how to help navigate obstacles and chart paths to solid solutions. He appears on news networks and his writings have been featured in national publications. Miller has spoken at numerous seminars and taught business, diversity and entrepreneurial leadership classes across America. He’s created, developed and implemented Diversity Marketing program activities among industry and church audiences.
(William Reed is head of the Business Exchange Network and available for speaking/seminar projects through the Bailey Group.org.)
Last Updated on Friday, 01 March 2013 09:59
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