America's Priorities

Creatively make these one of these American priorities actionable by connecting them to HBCU strengths. You are limited only by your imagination. There is endless room within these elements for you to innovate beyond what you may have ever imagined. We are confident that your solutions will dream and deliver far and above what the elements below describe.


Narratives refer to the leading economic culture, leadership, and advocacy in communities primarily served by HBCUs. New economic narratives that manifest as new economic culture are needed to ensure inclusive U.S. competitiveness. The time for an evolution of community economic narratives is now.


The Innovation Economy is driven by imagination. For our children, unstructured play, not organized, but unstructured play – where kids use their own imagination to make up new games, create new things or repair their own possessions – is an excellent way to nurture collaboration, creativity and imagination.


New leadership from K-12 through higher education institutions – especially HBCUs – is needed to flood the pipeline of high school and college students from areas primarily served by HBCUs toward STEM disciplines. These students can become our new economic athletes.


Without distracting from other worthy efforts to improve STEM education attainment, provide a complementary means to identify, capture, and connect the growing cache of non-STEM talent and creativity to top employment opportunities, as well as higher growth entrepreneurship.  Competitiveness is fueled by more than just STEM; it is also fueled by art. So how about incorporating the “A” for art and evolving STEM to STEAM.


Americans primarily served by HBCUs are also served by a rich and diverse set of leadership organizations that typically provide direct and place-based services to residents. Their focus is on areas such as traditional community economic development and education, employment, human, small business, and social services. New organizational leadership is required to inject incumbent services with new strategies, capacities, and capabilities that are aligned with local, state, and U.S. education and economic competitiveness levers/opportunities. New organizational leadership that builds new bridges to this twenty-first century infrastructure, on which the nation is counting to deliver future jobs and wealth, is required to achieve inclusive U.S. competitiveness.


Private capital, including angel investors and venture capitalists, is an essential ingredient and significant lever of American innovation and competitiveness. The willingness of private investors to take the risks in funding entrepreneurs, disruptive technologies and new business models is responsible for creating entire new industries that today employ millions in high paying jobs. Private capital activity has a significant impact on the U.S economy. It’s a catalyst for job creation, innovation and increased tax revenues and national competitiveness. As for the specific matter of job creation, based on data from 2010, originally private capital-backed companies accounted for 11.87 million jobs and over $3.1 trillion in revenue in the United States. Those totals equate to 21% of GDP and 11% of private sector employment. There is no doubt that private capital is an important cog in the engine of prosperity of those principally served by HBCUs. We should become more aware of the important role it and other forms of private capital play in our economy. The more we know about it, the more we’ll embrace it, recognizing that it’s a 21st century economic prosperity tool to fuel innovation and entrepreneurship, resulting in new jobs and wealth – and positioning more Americans to win the future.


Anchored by leading local institutions, including colleges and universities, in response to the demands of the Innovation Economy, communities and regions throughout the nation have begun the process of working together to intentionally connect economic and financial assets and building communities of competitively talented people, balanced to successfully compete in the 21st century. However, few such innovation ecosystems are designed to engage and serve in communities primarily served by HBCUs. There are few high-growth entrepreneurship accelerators or incubators; few angel and venture capital investor networks; few research, commercialization and technology transfer institutions; few critical service providers; and very few students, people and communities primarily served by HBCUs that are connected to the innovation ecosystems where we live, in our own metropolitan regions. The absence of innovation ecosystems within these communities considerably undermines efforts of these Americans to win the future.


To win the future, many more Americans must become entrepreneurs. This contention is supported by the U.S. Small Business Administration, which says that “Business startups are crucial for job creation. The number of jobs created through the expansion of existing establishments was generally insufficient to counteract the job destruction due to business deaths and contractions." However, even in the area of entrepreneurship, one form has earned unique distinction. This type of business creation comprises a relatively small portion of the nation's business base – only about 350,000 firms out of 6 million U.S. businesses with employees. This special kind of companies, which grow at an annual rate of at least 15-20%, is called high-growth entrepreneurship. Contrasted with life style entrepreneurship, business creation designed to provide owners - and perhaps their families - a good income, high-growth entrepreneurship creates and grows profitable and sustainable businesses – that can impact regional, national and global economies - as large and as fast as possible. To successfully “counteract the job destruction due business deaths and contractions,” many more Americans, especially those principally served by HBCUs, must become high-growth entrepreneurs.


An appropriate emphasis on inclusion of people and communities primarily served by HBCUs is needed in the early stages of strategic planning for local, regional and state education and economic competitiveness, including the exploration, selection, and prioritization of Innovation Economy areas of focus, programs, and initiatives throughout the U.S. Without such emphasis on the frontend, inclusion of those primarily served by HBCUs can become nearly insurmountable during backend implementation. Importantly, the full set of an area’s Innovation Economy priorities cannot be limited to only those economic sectors that create job opportunities for the most highly educated workers in a city or region or the nation. People and communities served by HBCUs need new and complementary approaches to promote widespread and inclusive growth and development. New activity that is typically associated with winning and creating good jobs, with lower barriers to entry, is needed to ensure that education and training opportunities include workers and would-be entrepreneurs.


The opposite of risk-averse is to be risk-astute. Creative, risk-astute policy, process, and practice advancements across a diverse set of policymaking stakeholders—who substantially underwrite the nation’s economic competitiveness activities—are required to activate and sustain education and economic inclusion and competitiveness. These stakeholders can be anchored by HBCUs and also include business, community, technology, and innovation economic development organizations, underserved community organizations, other colleges and universities, and government and philanthropic institutions.


Dual pipelines of improved performance and productivity are needed to better prepare HBCU students and people and communities primarily served by these institutions to become higher impact intrapreneurs (employees infused with the ethic of entrepreneurship), as well as higher growth, job-creating entrepreneurs. The complementary combination of both knowledge-worker employees (whose jobs have more than doubled in the last three decades, with no signs of that trend slowing, and who are at low to no risk of automation) and job-creating entrepreneurs is needed to improve national education and economic competitiveness and quality of life.