Prepare for change or be an agent of change this year.

That’s the overwhelming theme from 17 leaders in the Greater Des Moines business community about trends coming up in 2018. The Business Record asked leaders from a variety of industries for two things: their forecast for what could come up in their industry or field in the next 12 months and the accompanying impact.

In the responses included in this issue, the message of change resonated clearly — from the effect of younger workers on retail to the need for fair lending practices for small business owners to how technology developments will change banking and travel.

The answers surprised and informed us. We hope you enjoy them also.

Happy New Year!

Suzanne BehnkeBusiness Record editor

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Jayne Armstrong 

district director, Iowa District Office, U.S. Small Business Administration 

Trend: Millennials drive changes to small business financing culture.

Impact:
Digital banking is here to stay, thanks to millennials who want to bank whenever and wherever they wish. Entrepreneurs today are more tech-savvy than ever before. This is especially true of millennial entrepreneurs identifying financing options for their small businesses. Crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter, Indiegogo and others are often popular financing options for small business startups before turning to more traditional commercial lending or venture capital to fund the next stage of growth.

The reality is many young entrepreneurs today are less likely to walk into a bank to apply for a loan. In fact, many of them never have been inside a bank. This is a trend that we can’t afford to ignore. Small business is the heart and soul of Iowa’s economy, but our economic development resources must reflect the changing needs of the entrepreneur or they will look elsewhere to start, grow and expand their businesses.

The U.S. Small Business Administration gets it. SBA Lender Match, a free online referral tool to connect small businesses with participating SBA-approved lenders, was developed with millennials in mind. Prospective borrowers get matched to interested lenders at www.sba.gov/lendermatch to expand their financing options.

Over 800 lenders currently participate nationally, but only four have a physical presence in Iowa. We can do better for our small businesses. This is an important trend that our small business and lending communities need to embrace if Iowa is serious about retaining the next generation of entrepreneurs. Iowa small businesses’ needs aren’t being met if we limit their exposure to only a few financing options. Lenders wanting a competitive edge with young entrepreneurs will jump on the trend and add SBA Lender Match to their marketing strategy.

Rachel Binning
global regulatory portfolio lead, soybeans, Corteva Agriscience

Trend: Politicization of the global regulatory environment for agricultural commodities will increase, challenging innovation.

Impact: Agriculture is inextricably linked to Iowa’s identity and economy. Most corn and soybeans grown in Iowa contain technology that needs authorizations from regulatory agencies in several countries before they are sold to farmers. Historically, this process was grounded in science and most authorizations were granted in a predictable amount of time when the science was supportive. Recently, political influence has contributed to longer time to authorization, and in a few instances, cessation of approvals. This has the potential to cause serious disruptions to global trade, affecting farmers’ ability to sell their harvest, agriculture companies’ appetite to invest in innovative technologies, and grain handlers’ ability to move commodities on the global market.

The world population is growing, and large developing countries like China and India are demanding more protein in their diets. Demand for plant-based protein sources is on the rise in developed countries in North America and the European Union. Agriculture products to meet these demands are within our reach. They will be conserving of water and soil, tolerant of climate change and require fewer inputs. These innovations are within our reach, and Iowa is poised to be a leader in this space. However, we will struggle to maintain an environment encouraging of such innovation if the regulatory path continues to lengthen. It will become even more difficult for entrepreneurs and small companies to succeed in the agricultural space due to the time and cost required to complete the regulatory process, especially if success is governed by something innovators don’t control — politics. Future success in agriculture will require political savvy on the part of the producers/inventors and dedicated engagement by our elected officials.

Kate Byus 
vice president of brokerage, JLL

Trend: Proceed with caution is the prevailing sentiment of the commercial office market these days.

Impact: This trend will impact real estate professionals and users in two ways.

First, easy, short-terms deals will be attractive. I’ve seen several landlords adopt strategies of creating move-in-ready suites in the 2,500-square-feet and under range, and those deals can move fast. These smaller businesses are often in dynamic change mode, and don’t want to invest much of their own money — or time — in getting the space ready. They will pay a slight premium for a fast and simple occupancy, and the aesthetic must look sharp. Because they are monitoring both the turbulent economy and their own changing business needs, they will prefer to only commit short term; three years or less.

Second, bigger, longer-term deals will move more slowly. As sizable tenants consider their options, there are more variables than ever to consider. What impact will the economy have on future budgets and employee count? How important is real estate to attracting and retaining talent? What office layout should be used — a switch to the on-trend open concept with increased space efficiency, or is the fixed office plan better for the company? Is a consolidation on the horizon? Should we — or can we — consider new construction, which continues to remain costly? And critically, how many layers of approvals on any of the above do we have to go through? For some of JLL’s largest, “most corporate” clients, these decisions can often take over a year. And that is assuming the space they saw on the tour 300 days ago is still available. Not surprisingly, landlords don’t like this waiting game, so I could see the tide turning from “first come, first served” to a race for signatures. In these cases, those with the tightest strategy and most streamlined approval process will win. 

Brian Clark
director of real estate development, Ryan Cos.

Trend: The “amenitization” of everything and labor. 

Impact: As we work across various geographic regions and market sectors at Ryan Cos., a few commercial real estate trends will become more significant in 2019.

The “amenitization” of everything is the first trend I will offer. While I am not sure that amenitization is even a word, I am sure that all sectors of commercial real estate (offices, apartments, senior living, hospitality, etc.) are racing to have a complete suite of project amenities. Amenitization could be defined as “the tendency to add new perks and features in an effort to attract more clients and respond to competition.” On-site health care, pet care, coffee shop and curated gardens growing fresh fruits and vegetables are some of the latest “support commercial” amenities that go above and beyond the traditional fitness centers, recreational areas and digital package rooms. We need to think about the direction and long-term impacts of real estate competition based upon amenities beyond those typically provided in the past.

Secondly, labor, labor, labor. Companies are making relocation decisions as much on labor force location as location of real estate. Human capital factors such as an area’s available workforce, education level, ability to recruit/retain and access to mass transit will have more influence on future business growth and relocations. Motorola’s recent relocation from Schaumberg, Ill., to downtown Chicago was, primarily, “to gain access to talent” they need for future growth. Locally, the Krause Gateway Center’s move to downtown embraces the notion of “intelligent collisions,” designing a building around associates, and creating/attracting the top labor force.

Over the last decade or so, concerns about labor force availability have been top of mind for business leaders, in real estate and across the spectrum of industries. The collective power of talent is the key to productivity, profits and a healthy Des Moines metro. The top two economic and financial issues of 2019, according to the Urban Land Institute, will be job growth and qualified labor availability.

David Courard-Hauri

professor of environmental science and sustainability, Drake University

Trend: New use technologies and market trends make sustainability investments the way to go in 2019.

Impact: Talking about new opportunities with LED lighting might seem so 2015, but there are good reasons why 2019 should see more installations than ever. This is good for office sustainability: Lighting is second only to space heating for energy expense in the commercial sector.

Why the new excitement? Market innovation is leading to significantly new capabilities every six to 12 months. Recently, individual “smart bulbs” have been introduced widely that allow for high levels of control and customization at any level, leading to new ways of thinking about lighting. As managers become aware of opportunities, the energy-saving potential for LEDs may become only a secondary benefit of the technology. These products and their potential are just now getting noticed, and with familiarity will come increased installation.

At the same time, analysts are beginning to point to storm clouds on the horizon for the U.S. and global economies. While the expansion isn’t over, the appetite of companies to invest in growth opportunities is declining in the face of a potential downturn, but many find themselves with near record levels of cash on hand. Companies will shift at least some of their investment capital from R&D and new capacity toward cost-saving technologies to help weather difficult times. Because of newly realized opportunities for rapid payoffs, sustainability is an increasingly attractive investment.

Interestingly, a large fraction of LED products are manufactured in the U.S. That means trade disputes will have only minor effects on prices, and the relative benefits of investing in LED upgrades will rise this year.

Kevin Foley
executive director and general manager, Des Moines International Airport

Trend: Biometrics will allow passengers to self-board.

Impact: Technology is rapidly changing how the world’s population travels. The ability for airline passengers to transfer from their chosen method of ground transportation to or from air transportation without speaking with an airline employee has yet to take off in many airports. 

However, it will become more common as the aviation industry invests in ways to identify passengers using biometrics, such as facial recognition.  

Des Moines International Airport is not unique in its struggle to rectify its demand capacity issues. Airports around the world struggle with similar issues, causing them to focus on future advancements that will speed passenger processing. Nearly 8 billion passengers are expected to fly in 2036, almost double the passengers who flew last year, according to a forecast by the International Air Transport Association, a trade group for the world’s airlines.

In response to the increasing demand on our nation’s overburdened infrastructure, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is conducting pilot programs using facial recognition to enhance both the departure and the arrival processes. CBP has developed a biometric facial recognition matching service that enables airlines and airports to onboard travelers using just their face for identity verification. This improves both speed and security, eliminating the need to scan boarding passes and the ability of imposters to pass through the gate.  

Testing of facial recognition at TSA security checkpoints is underway as well, including plans to test facial recognition for checked luggage identity match and verification. Incorporated with self-bag tagging, facial recognition would then allow passengers to move from curb to gate, checking in and boarding the plane without assistance or speaking to any airline personnel.

As tests are successfully completed, these technological improvements are rapidly becoming a reality. Facial recognition will be implemented at the largest airports first, but look for it at an airport near you in the not too distant future as well.  

Kim Butler Hegedus
senior vice president, commercial banking, Community State Bank

Trend: Community banks appeal to millennials. 

Impact: In a rising interest rate environment, all banks will face renewed emphasis on attracting deposits to support strong loan demand. With 82 million millennials (those with dates of birth between 1980 and 1995), representing the largest generational segment of the U.S. population and reaching peak earning potential, community banks are uniquely positioned to capture a substantial portion of this customer base.

Millennials are characterized as focused on social responsibility. They are interested, involved and invested in their local communities. In this post-recession period, community banks have tremendous opportunity to give millennials a reason to bank with them by telling a meaningful story of local impact, local decision-making and a customer-focused approach to service. These ideals resonate with this particular demographic.

Community banks have and will continue to champion small business, which has also been somewhat left behind by larger competitors. Community banks have a long history of providing personalized and essential services to consumers and small businesses. By showing support to this segment through local investment and face-to-face interaction with people they can count on, community banks can win wallet share.

Kent Henning

president, Grand View University

Trend: Higher education develops programs to meet employers’ needs.

Impact: Advances in robotics and information technology are changing the competitive landscape for businesses as well as the nature of employees’ work. Despite conversations about skills gaps and some historic frustration with higher education’s resistance to change, colleges and universities are making curricular modifications at a pace I have not seen before in our industry.

In response to changing demands, faculties are creating new academic programs and modifying existing ones. Examples include the relatively recent emergence of data analytics and data science programs. Some institutions are further tailoring these programs to specific industries like business analytics, health care analytics and bioinformatics. Advances in the technology world have spurred development of programs studying the human interface with technology. Game design is a new and growing academic major. Some leading Ivy League schools have now created coding “boot camps” as a part of their offerings. In teacher preparation programs, universities are rapidly developing specialties in teaching English as a second language and are preparing bilingual teachers. Communications programs are dropping newspaper and broadcast journalism in favor of majors that prepare students to work across the range of digital media.

What’s driving the increased pace of this work is a multiyear decline in college enrollments and lingering concerns about cost. Colleges and universities are compelled to re-evaluate curricular offerings, divest of less popular majors and develop new ones. A growing number of institutions are dropping majors in the traditional liberal arts and replacing them with programs in STEM fields due to changing student interests. For instance, from 2011 to 2017 the number of history majors declined more than 30 percent nationally, in large measure because of the perception that studying history does not lead to lucrative jobs.

Some in higher education rightfully lament these changes, because employers also value citizenship and such “soft skills” as critical thinking, communication and leading diverse groups. Educators know that many of these skills are developed in the study of literature, religion, philosophy, history and other humanities disciplines. This culling of academic programs and development of new ones is occurring nationwide and in all sectors of higher education, often with employers at the table giving advice.

Liz Holland
CEO, Abbell Associates and Consortial Technology

Trend: Convenience, value and entertainment will drive Des Moines retail in the year ahead.

Impact: The old guard of big-box retailers is giving way to new chains that will dramatically change the retail landscape. Younkers and Sears are gone in this market. They’ll be replaced by new players that cater to millennials who are starting to marry and have kids.

Expect shopping patterns to shift because of these changing needs. Millennials like a sale and aren’t turned off by shopping discount. They also expect retailers to deliver omni-channel experiences, meaning they may research and shop deals online, but want to see and feel items in-store before purchasing them. They, along with the rest of shoppers, want the transition from online to offline — and sometimes back to online for purchase — to happen seamlessly, with transactions completed in a snap. 

While “shop online/pickup in store” isn’t a new concept, it’s being reinvented with speed and concierge-like service and convenience. Retailers like the Container Store, for example, give shoppers the option to click or call for curbside pickup. They’re now also offering in-home design services once reserved for high-end home stores.

Value is also big for these children of the Great Recession. Ross’ Dress for Less is growing in this market as part of the chain’s aggressive expansion plans. Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods means grocery shoppers who are Amazon Prime members get special sales and 10 percent off their purchase.

Entertainment will continue to be big for these experience-seekers. Dave & Buster’s is eyeing this market in 2019, now that the state Legislature has changed a law that blocked the size of arcades. We expect Flix Brewhouse, a unique concept for the region, to continue to perform well.

Retailers who would do well entering this market in 2019? Five Below, Main Event, Pinstripes and Art Van Furniture.

Karl Keeler
CEO, Mercy Medical Center - Des Moines

Trend: Health care must meet patients where they are.

Impact: Today’s patients are smart, driven and tech-savvy consumers, with the means to shop for quality care, delivered at an affordable price. The convenience of accessing what they want, when and how they want it is an expectation rooted in retail experiences from customer service giants like Google and Amazon. Our industry is following suit to meet the commanding needs of millennials, and the Gen Xers who will follow.

Change is no stranger to health care. Systems and providers continue to be resilient, managing consumer expectations and delivering new approaches to care, while navigating local, state and federal-level challenges. Government and third-party reimbursement for health care in Iowa is among the lowest in the country and region, and will remain inadequate without added pressure placed on programs like Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

As inpatient numbers drop and outpatient visits rise, revenue trends for health care providers fluctuate. Nonetheless, Mercy and fellow nonprofit providers have not abandoned the uninsured and underserved. During fiscal year 2018, Mercy provided the equivalent of $53.5 million in community benefit. Collectively, health care providers remain diligent in managing costs within our control, while seeking legislative assistance to address volatile pharmaceutical, medical implant and technology pricing.

To interest and best serve today’s consumer, health care organizations must be bold. This translates into a commitment of developing personalized health services that are radically convenient, like those offered at the Mercy Lung Cancer Clinic. A national Screening Center of Excellence, the clinic provides low-dose CT imaging screening to detect lung cancers. If discovered, the patient has access to a multidisciplinary team of specialists, who develop a personalized care plan in one location, in the same day. If surgery is required, a state-of-the-art surgical robot removes the cancer through a minimally invasive procedure.

To be successful, health systems must innovate and embrace technologies to increase convenience, maintain quality and lower costs. Look for greater telemedicine and digital care solutions, along with continued progress in consumers’ access to electronic health records.

Sean Kennedy
president and CEO, IMT Insurance

Trend: Insurtech partnerships.

Impact: The speed of change in technology is staggering. In 2014, only $400 million was invested in insurtech; over the last three years, more than $8 billion has been invested. This insurtech eruption is leading to a disruption in the marketplace that will likely continue in 2019.

Emerging technologies are transforming every aspect of the property and casualty insurance market. Insurtech innovations are operating across the property and casualty insurance value chain, including new ways to insure, ways to enhance the customer experience, new ways to underwrite and settle claims. These innovative technologies are stimulating the traditional property and casualty companies to acquire insurtech innovations. While some companies have invested in digital labs to research and develop these types of innovations, most are looking to partner with insurtech companies. For example, IMT Insurance has entered into a partnership with Insurance Social.Media, an insurtech company that was a part of the Global Insurance Accelerator’s 2016 cohort.  

In 2014, the first insurance-only accelerator model, the Global Insurance Accelerator, began right here in Des Moines’ own East Village. The GIA has hosted 26 companies over the first four years, with the fifth cohort scheduled to begin in January 2019. Over the last year, two more accelerators specific to insurance have begun: one in Hartford, Conn., and one in the United Kingdom. These accelerators take a cohort of startup companies related to insurance and provide them with a monetary investment, workspace, a program and mentors to help develop their products. The accelerators provide a great opportunity for insurance companies to partner with insurtech companies and to see the implication of their products.

Collaboration between traditional property and casualty companies and insurtech companies is beneficial to both. Traditional property and casualty companies can bring the innovative offerings of insurtech in a cost-effective manner compared to developing the technology with their own resources. The products that are being generated create value-added services, new revenue streams and reduce operational costs.

Kent Kramer
CIO, Foster Group

Trend: Personalized investments based on science and values.

Impact: In the future, you’ll have your very own stock market index to watch. Instead of the Dow Jones industrial average on CNBC, you’ll be monitoring the “Smith Family Value-Informed Market Index” on your personal investment app.

I am always on guard against the temptation to predict the direction of stock markets and interest rates. However, one thing that I would fully expect in the future is an increased availability of highly customized investment portfolios along two themes: advancements in investment science and expressions of personal values. 

Individuals no longer grade their product and service experiences exclusively with industry peers. Rather, consumers expect their investment advisers or their banks to be just as technologically advanced, personalized and convenient as their Amazon Prime and Uber experience. Additionally, younger populations want to express their values more directly in every aspect of their lives. They want to buy goods, services and experiences, and they want those decisions to integrate and express their values. Good-tasting, fair trade coffee or travel to Africa not only for safari but also to provide clean water.

In the near future, investors will be able to dial up their portfolio exposure to sustainable energy companies, eliminate gun manufacturers and avoid entire countries that systematically deny rights to women and ethnic minorities. These values-driven decisions will be combined with developing research around the effectiveness of broad-based market and factor investing (e.g., favoring companies that are small, exhibit low price-to-book ratios, and have quality earnings) in an effort to create diversified, efficient and multiple goal-achieving portfolios. 

There has been much written about the advantages of “index” investing (low-cost, tax-efficient, high diversification). Technology will allow the creation of personalized “indexes” and asset classes bringing what now is available only to very large institutions and wealthy individuals to many more investors. In the future, all investors will expect their financial advisers to understand their goals along these lines. Investors will expect advisers to know how to use technology to create an investment portfolio that continuously reflects their unique preferences and gives them the opportunity to succeed in meeting their financial goals. All investment strategies have the potential for profit or loss.

John Matovina
CEO, American Equity Investment Life Insurance Co.

Trend: Longevity risk: Underappreciated in retirement.

Impact: For the past 30 to 40 years, Americans, particularly baby boomers, have focused on saving for retirement. Now, as nearly 40 percent of the country’s population ages into retirement, many are realizing the need to convert accumulated savings to a lifetime of income.

Baby boomers are the longest-living generation in history. By and large, the group has underappreciated longevity risk. As retirement evolved away from defined-benefit plans, the responsibility to manage longevity risk has fallen to retirees who have been more concerned with saving than with converting savings to lifetime income. Boomers hold more than 70 percent of the nation’s disposable income, but have been hesitant to give up access and control of accumulated 401(k) (and other) nest eggs. Many pre-retirees and retirees view the expense of giving up an asset as outweighing the benefit of securing income.

The effects of this are widespread, extending beyond companies like American Equity, which sells annuity products that provide lifetime income solutions, to include employers that sponsor defined contribution retirement plans and want to offer additional value to their retiring employees.

The importance of retirement contributions and securing a lifelong income source will only increase as more Americans enter retirement. According to a 2018 Insured Retirement Institute study, guaranteed monthly income is the most important benefit that aging boomers look for in retirement planning. To meet this need, many Americans look beyond traditional retirement income options for additional financial stability. As a result, organizations offering long-term solutions that can protect hard-earned dollars, while securing income that lasts a lifetime, have an opportunity to help mitigate longevity risk for millions of Americans.

Erin Rollenhagen
founder and CEO, Entrepreneurial Techonologies

Trend: Building technology with a conscience and consciousness of its effect on human behavior. 

Impact: This is one of those self-aware moments where we as an industry realize who we are and what we can become. In the beginning, we were all enamored with the perfection of machine automation. People strove to be slicker, faster, more generic, to mimic the unyielding perfection of a computer. My grandfather, a tool and die maker, laboriously forged forms that were perfect to a half-thousandth of an inch. There was no room for imperfection. As time has gone on, we’ve come back around to valuing the human touch. Handcrafted character is once again the mark of something special. In Japanese culture, there is a term — wabi-sabi — meaning accepting the beauty of transience and imperfection. Imperfection is human. Studies actually show that while in general people prefer more symmetrical human faces to less symmetrical ones, a perfectly symmetrical face is off-putting because we know it can’t be real. Putting some of that softness, that human character, back into technological experiences makes them more pleasing to us.

But it goes deeper than that. The rapid rise of technology in our daily lives has also led to unintended consequences, such as the polarization in many social media platforms. But if it can drive negative behavior, surely it can drive positive behavior, too. We’re seeing people from entrepreneurs to communities harness the power of technology to shape human action in a positive way. This may take subtle forms, such as designing text and elements on a form to nudge people to be kind to their fellow citizens. We are also seeing big, bold ideas where people are using technology to forge entire platforms centered around igniting positive change in the world. For us, it’s a very exciting time. Who doesn’t want to make a positive impact on the world?

Scott Sanders
Des Moines city manager

Trend: More cooperation across the region.

Impact: It would be fun to write about all the great construction projects in Des Moines in 2019. However, I will shine a light on a trend many residents may not be aware of — expansion of major local government collaborations. Successful local collaborations such as the Wastewater Reclamation Authority have shown that the region can cooperate well together.

Two regional services further illustrate the success.

The Homeland Security services that provide well-trained and equipped police officers for bomb removal and detection of weapons of mass destruction and other specialty services have been recently embraced by suburbs rejoining the effort.

And a new collaboration involves providing affordable housing to our residents most in need. A federal voucher program called Section 8 has been administered by the city of Des Moines for decades, tasked with providing housing vouchers across the entire county. The program has been underfunded by the federal government for many years, and reserves have now been depleted. Local tax funds must be inserted to maintain the program, which supports over 3,000 families in the county. Over the past year, nearly all the cities in Polk County agreed that any shortfall in federal funding should be a shared cost borne by the entire region.

Several additional options to collaborate will present themselves in 2019, including water production facilities and stormwater runoff management efforts. As federal and state resources become more scarce, we have greater responsibility at the local level to develop lasting partnerships to ensure that our residents continue to receive crucial services such as these and many others. The resources are missed; however, local cooperation provides opportunity to create sustainable solutions that are not always possible with higher-level government rules, limited funding and oversight.

Emily Steele

president of FemCity and entrepreneur

Trend: Local influencers for small business.

Impact: With the incredible growth of influencer marketing as a tool for small and large businesses, I see this as a trend more small businesses can get on board with at the local level in Des Moines. When I started connecting the dots of how frequently I was turning to social media for recommendations, I realized that there is really an opportunity to mobilize more voices to elevate local businesses and “happenings” with creative and relevant storytelling and social media postings. 

There are dozens of ways to equip local influencers or loyal customers to talk about your brand to all of their friends, family and followers. Whether it’s perks-driven or through a social media #sponsored or #ad post, businesses are seeing a tremendous ROI with influencer marketing. Imagine hundreds of people in Des Moines curating content on their social media feed that lifts up local businesses and events. More people are encouraged to shop local and invest their time, money and energy in what’s happening around them. Why? Because we trust what our friends and family (and people we follow but don’t even know) are saying.

An example of this is an event FemCity Des Moines hosted in November called “Flourish: Fund Ideas That Matter.” We asked our community to pitch an idea that matters to our community and narrowed it down to three women who had the chance to pitch in front of nearly 150 local residents or supports at the Hall. Many of the coordinators, attendees and Fems utilized their social media channels to create buzz before, during and after the event, all by using their own social media channels. We created an “Instagrammable moment” with our backdrop and gave everyone the tools to share, share, share. The result? One woman leaving with $2,000 for her business. Effectively mobilizing our community takes strategy, trust and charisma. But when it happens, it is incredibly beautiful!

ReShonda Young
founder, Popcorn Heaven

Trend: Equal support for diverse entrepreneurs to start their businesses.

Impact: In recent months, Eric Blankenstein, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s policy director of supervision, enforcement and fair lending, wrote several blog posts where he questioned whether directing the N-word at someone showed racial animus, asserted that hate crimes are frequently falsely reported and derided hate crime legislation as unfairly infringing on “thought.” 

Unfortunately, these thoughts and attitudes prevail too often.

As an African American woman and an entrepreneur, I speak from experience. I opened my first store location more than four years ago. Within the first three months, I had interest from potential franchisees to expand. Since then, we’ve opened four more, and are working on another two.

For me, trying to navigate the small business lending space was a nightmare. I was turned down at bank after bank. It wasn’t until I leaned on personal relationships that I eventually found someone who vouched for me so I could get a loan.

Many small business owners I know are forced to piece together financing. I can’t help but think how much quicker I could have gotten to where I am, if I were given a fair shot at financial support. It’s through my own frustrating experience with lenders that I’ve become engaged with the CFPB’s work. 

Business owners of color are denied credit from traditional banking services at higher rates than white business owners, pay higher interest rates on the credit they do receive, and are less likely to apply for loans because they fear their applications will be denied. 

The CFPB’s work against credit discrimination supports equal opportunity for all. It is extremely important work. To tackle the discrimination in the small business lending market, we need leaders with a stalwart commitment to equality. 

It’s up to us to reject bigotry, demand equality and expect more from leaders at the CFPB and other lending institutions or agencies that support small businesses.