An Equitable Economy in a Post-Pandemic World

Business and nonprofit collaboration is key to an inclusive and opportunity-driven Arizona 

by Carla Vargas Jasa and Chris Camacho 

What does an equitable economy look like in a post-pandemic world? The nonprofit sector, in partnership with businesses and many other sectors of the modern economy, is digging deep to determine how to answer this complex question. 

An inclusive and equitable economy is possible only if representation allows all groups to be the drivers of the conversation. This is critical in Arizona, where the Hispanic population is now the majority in Phoenix, according to data released by the U.S. Census Bureau showing 42.6% of the population of the city of Phoenix identify as Hispanic or Latino. Similarly, Black/African Americans have the fastest growth rate by percentage of any demographic, growing by 33% since 2010, compared to a statewide growth of 13%. 

In March 2021, The State of Black Arizona, in collaboration with the Greater Phoenix Economic Council and numerous community organizations, created the inaugural State of Black Business Report to begin filling in the knowledge gap about Arizona’s diverse economy. 

Many themes are highlighted in the report, including the importance of ensuring the future workforce has the skills and credentials needed to seize new opportunities and the importance of removing racial and income barriers so entrepreneurs and small businesses can access critical resources to thrive and grow. 

Bridging the Skills Gap to Spur Future Opportunities 

Research shows that skills training and educational attainment is highly correlated with income level. Therefore, educational advancement can have profound and multi-generational impacts on financial stability. Further complicating this issue is the interconnectedness of lower education rates, inequality and poverty, which can create a pattern of lost opportunity for even the most talented students who live in zip codes lacking in resources. This is described by economists as the “lost Einstein” effect. 

Members of our business and education communities, policy makers and the nonprofit sector recognize that social issues affecting our community are interrelated. Together, we are joining forces to achieve bold goals outlined in MC2026, Valley of the Sun United Way’s new five-year strategy to address interrelated issues in the areas of housing and homelessness, health, education and workforce development, and are creating “coalitions” of partners to maximize collaboration to collectively achieve the MC2026 goals. 

Phoenix Public Library Foundation and Phoenix Union High School District collaborate to provide the College Peer Influencers Program, which provides students from four high schools with stipends to mentor and assist other students with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid enrollment. This process opens the door for youth to access post-secondary education that can lead to a living wage and a higher level of future financial security.

Breaking down Barriers in Business

A sharp pivot to an inclusive economic growth model where all Arizonans can achieve upward mobility and intergenerational wealth will be required for local communities to increase economic development and tap into the power of innovation of entrepreneurialism. Unfortunately, many barriers still exist that can impede this growth. 

The State of Black Business Report noted that, nationally, “an estimated 41% of Black-owned businesses closed between February and April 2020, compared to 22% of all businesses. Black-owned businesses were especially vulnerable to pandemic effects because they typically had less cash reserves and were more likely to be in an area with high COVID-19 infection rates. Additionally, weaker relationships with banks meant that Black-owned businesses were less likely to obtain federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans.”

Leaders of nonprofits know that technological and organizational innovations that were accelerated during the pandemic will continue, which, if capitalized, can bring new opportunities for students, business owners and those seeking better-paying employment in local industries.

For all members of the community, including educators and nonprofits, to benefit from these new opportunities, it is imperative that nonprofit, public, private and civic leadership work collaboratively and with intention, to ensure that opportunity-driven market forces become a catalyst for short- and long-term equitable growth that will, ultimately, lead to a better future for Arizona.  

Find Local, Black-owned Businesses on Blax Friday

The State of Black Business Report highlighted, “The best way to help Black-owned businesses on an individual level, and by extension help more people begin to create a foundation of wealth, is to shop locally, take a personal approach and start doing it now.”

Shopping at local, Black-owned businesses puts money directly into the community. Names of businesses can be found on the Blax Friday website. 

Carla Vargas Jasa is president and chief executive officer of Valley of the Sun United Way, which serves the more than 4.3 million people of Maricopa County and is among the largest United Way organizations in the nation.

Chris Camacho is president and chief executive officer of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, the regional economic development organization actively working to attract and grow quality businesses and advocate for the competitiveness of Greater Phoenix.  

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