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Udall Statement on Black History Month

Posted: Thursday, February 9, 2012

In celebration of Black History Month, Mark Udall entered the following statement into the Congressional Record this week.  For a digital copy of the statement, click HERE.

"I rise to join my fellow Coloradans, my colleagues in the U.S. Congress and others across the nation to celebrate Black History Month.  I am honored to recognize the contributions of the African-American community in the United States and especially in my home state of Colorado. 

"I am particularly proud to reflect on the legacy of community involvement exemplified by Colorado's black community, from Colorado's earliest days as a western territory to the present.  There have been many community leaders, public officials, and entrepreneurs who have contributed immensely over the years to make our great state what it is today, from our historic and cultural institutions, to the farms and small businesses of our rural communities. 

"One gentleman named James Beckwourth, whom I have recognized in previous years as a true frontiersman, exemplifies the entrepreneurial spirit that led to the building of the economic foundations that supported the formation of our great state.  He led expeditions into Colorado's Rocky Mountains in the 1820s and returned in the 1830s to serve at Fort Vasquez near Denver.  In the 1840s, he co-founded a trading post and settlement named Fort Pueblo to serve as a trading hub for the Native Americans, Mexican settlers and other American frontiersman along the Santa Fe Trail.  This settlement eventually became the city of Pueblo and still serves as a commercial hub for Southeast Colorado. 

"Mr. Beckwourth exemplifies the entrepreneurship that continues to thrive in all of Colorado's African-American communities. Today, I would like to specifically recognize the importance of the continuation of the entrepreneurial spirit in black communities throughout Colorado and share how much it has strengthened Colorado's economy and will continue to help lead our country on the path to economic recovery.

"The increase in the number of minority-owned businesses has been a bright spot in our economy.  According to the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA), operated by the Department of Commerce, minority-owned businesses contributed $1 trillion to the economy last year and created 5.8 million jobs.  Specifically, the total number of African-American owned businesses grew to 1.9 million firms between 2002 and 2007, an increase of 61 percent.  This figure is particularly impressive when compared to the employment growth in the rest of the country during that same time period, which was less than 1 percent. 

"In Colorado, the total number of minority-owned firms increased by 19 percent between 1997 and 2002.  By 2007, this figure had increased even further as there were over 59,000 firms, employing over 74,000 workers, and the numbers continue to grow.  African-American-owned businesses are an important part of this driving force in our state's economy.  Along with all other minority-owned businesses, the increase in African-American owned businesses in Colorado has helped sustain our economy and stimulate job growth.  The most recent data show there are more than 9,000 African-American-owned businesses in Colorado.  These businesses are especially valued in Colorado because they not only provide jobs to Coloradans, they also provide essential services that meet the needs of both African-American and non-African-American communities.  And as we know, successful businesses have a positive economic ripple effect throughout our communities.

"In spite of the rising number of minority-owned businesses in Colorado, barriers to success still exist, and in some cases the challenges facing minority-owned businesses can be particularly difficult. This is why I was proud to welcome the creation of the Denver Minority Business Center last summer.  The Denver Minority Business Center is an extension of the Minority Business Development Agency, and will further supplement our state's commitment to supporting minority owned businesses by providing the resources to develop technical skills and to access capital and contracting opportunities.  Within the last three years alone the MBDA has helped create 11,000 new jobs nationally and helped save thousands of existing jobs at minority-owned firms by helping secure $7 billion in contracts. 

"Mr. President, as we celebrate the diverse and profound contributions of African-Americans to our state, I hope we will remember to appreciate the positive and sustaining impact of African-American owned businesses, and I hope we will continue to support the creation of new minority owned businesses in all corners of our state.  I encourage all Coloradans to join me in reflecting on the invaluable contributions of African-Americans to our state and throughout our great nation-not only during Black History Month, but every month of the year."

By: Tara Trujillo, 202-224-4334
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