Fighting poverty – Broad trend

U.S. corporations in a broad range of industries are creating competitive advantages by investing in poor communities, the Ford Foundation says in a new report.

Firms in the automotive, energy, entertainment, insurance, pharmaceutical, retail, financial-services and high-tech sectors are helping poor communities become more competitive, says the report, “Win-Win: Competitive Advantage Through Community Investment.”

“Many communities are already reaping the benefits of investment in low-income communities and their residents in order to expand their customer base, stabilize their workforce, locate top suppliers, invest corporate assets and build community relations,” says Susan Berresford, the foundation’s president.

Findings include:

* Big companies across all industries are starting to team up with community-oriented venture-capital firms to invest in inner-city and minority-owned businesses.

* Manufacturers are diversifying their supplier networks at dramatic rates, contracting with firms owned by minorities and women for services, equipment and components.

* Firms across all industry sectors increasingly are turning to local and national economic development groups for help with workforce and procurement needs.

* Banks and insurers are enjoying big and profitable boosts in their investments in inner-city and rural enterprises and housing, providing financial services in partnership with community-oriented groups.

* Retailers have been pioneers in finding new markets and setting up stores and franchises in underserved communities, and more retailers now are establishing profitable operations in neglected communities, with some developing merchandising and marketing strategies to attract even more minority consumers.

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