Robert Johnson - First Black American Billionaire, Proposes Plan To Reduce Black Unemployment

by Janelle Ross

As Congress weighs the Obama administration's jobs package, RLJ Companies CEO Robert Johnson (in picture) is pushing a proposal that he says marshals the capacity of the nation's biggest companies to significantly reduce black unemployment.

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CEO Robert Johnson has dubbed his idea the "RLJ Rule." 

Black Buying Power Nears $1.1 Trillion

Black buying power is expected to reach $1.1 trillion by 2015, according to The State of the African- American Consumer Report, recently released, collaboratively by Nielsen, a leading global provider of insights and analytics into what consumers watch and buy, and the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), a federation of more than 200 Black community newspapers across the United States.

According to the report, consumer trends include:

• With a buying power of nearly $1 trillion annually, if Blacks were a country, they'd be the 16th largest country in the world.

• Blacks make more shopping trips than all other groups, but spend less money per trip.

• There were 23.9 million active Black Internet users in July 2011—76 percent of whom visited a social networking/blog site.

• Thirty-three percent of all Blacks own a smart phone.

• Black Americans use more than double the amount of mobile phone voice minutes compared to Whites—1,298 minutes a month vs. 606.

• The percentage of Blacks attending college or earning a degree has increased to 44 percent for men and 53 percent for women.

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It calls on Fortune 1000 companies to voluntarily consider a more diverse pool of qualified candidates when filling senior level job openings and hiring contractors. Johnson has described it as the business version of the National Football League's Rooney Rule, a 2003 mandate that required teams to consider diverse candidate pools when filling senior positions.

Johnson, the United States' first black billionaire, has been critical of the way that the Obama administration and Congress have tried to address the nation's stubborn unemployment problem. He believes businesses can create solutions to social problems.

"We are at war! Future of our people is at stake." - Louis Farrakhan 16th Anniversary of The Million Man March

"You can't have a society where more than 42 million people are falling backwards," he said of the black population in the U.S. "That's just not sustainable. You can say that [the problem is] education or globalization. But you can also point to the fact that corporations are either not reaching out aggressively enough or are actively blocking the door."

Johnson pointed to one of RLJ's employees, Thomas Baltimore, as an example of a different approach to hiring.

"This guy worked for Marriott and Hilton and was never in line to be CEO of either company, Johnson said. "Now, in our company, he is CEO of a $2 billion hotel REIT [real estate investment trust]. He's creating jobs, tax revenue and generating economic value. It was just a matter of giving him an opportunity."

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