It is often said that you cannot throw money at a problem to get it to go away, but in the case of the economy, that may be the only way to tackle the problem. Starbucks is taking this idea seriously with the recent announcement that they will be teaming up with Opportunity Finance Network to launch Create Jobs for USA. According to a press release today, Create Jobs for USA will pool donations from Starbucks customers, employees and concerned citizens into a nationwide fund for community business lending. And they said America Runs on Dunkin. Not anymore.
The economy sputtered out of control since September 2008. Bailouts and stimulus programs, extended unemployment insurance – these solutions may have worked to keep America from spiraling out of control, but they did little to boost the economy. Three years later, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the country is stuck at a 9.1% nationwide unemployment rate. Those who know to look closer than just the one number will realize the statistic is worse for different communities; Hispanics suffer an 11.3% nationwide unemployment rate, while that number for the African American community balloons to 16.7%. At the same time, there are those who stopped looking for jobs, had their unemployment run out, or are underemployed. New plans are bandied about. Politics get in the way. The country is left with a bunch of angry people looking for a solution. What Starbucks is brewing looks rather interesting.
Starting November 1, Create Jobs for USA will accept donations online at www.CreateJobsforUSA.org and at nearly 6,800 company‐operated Starbucks stores in the United States. Donors who contribute $5 or more will receive a red, white, and blue wristband with the message “Indivisible.” Who really cares about a wristband that you may never even wear. What you are really buying is a better future. According to the players involved, 100% of donations will go to the Opportunity Finance Network to help fund loans to community businesses—including small businesses, microenterprises, nonprofit organizations, commercial real estate, and affordable housing— all across the country committed to creating and sustaining jobs.
Why does this make a different? Well, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration, 65% of new jobs over the past 15 years were created by small businesses. They are the ones doing the work, but according to a National Small Business Association Report from July 2011, one in three of those small businesses is having trouble obtaining the funding they need to grow. They need funding, and the new Starbucks initiative hopes to get them the money they need to spark growth and create jobs. Sounds like a win-win.
So, how will it all work? The Opportunity Finance Network represents a nationwide network of 180 Community Development Financial Institutions set up to provide financing to community businesses in underserved markets where accessing credit through traditional lending institutions is challenging or not available. The Create Jobs for USA Fund will be seeded with a $5 million contribution from the Starbucks Foundation. Every $5 donation will result in $35 in financing to support community businesses. The Community Development Financial Institutions community lenders will issue $30 in financing, on average, for each $5 donation through their respective financing sources. The idea is that one new job will be created or retained for approximately every $21,000 in loans – or approximately every $3,000 in donations. More jobs means more money means more spending, which results in more jobs.
This could work. In fact, it’s pretty easy. Just forego a venti white chocolate mocha coffee one time and donate $5 instead. You might have trouble staying up at your desk for one day, but you’ll sleep easier knowing that your donation might help someone get a job. If you are feeling extra giving, donate that $5 once a week or once a month. Collect the wristbands like kids collect those weird funny bands that form the shape of animals. Then shame them into never wearing them again by wearing your wristbands everywhere you go. But seriously, think of what the donation might mean for our economic future.
“Small businesses are the backbone of America, employing more than half of all private sector workers – but this critical jobs engine has stalled,” Starbucks chairman and CEO Howard Schultz said in the release today. “We’ve got to thaw the channels of credit so that community businesses can start hiring again.”
But that really depends on the donations that come in. Will you help Starbucks create new jobs? Do you trust the initiative? What ideas do you have to help job growth? What needs to be done? Let us know.
--Jon Minners, Vault.com
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