Darius Gray dreams of selling the electronic super-charger system he spent years designing.
The unit pushes plenty of air into the engines he's tested it on and is easier to install than the other brands, he said. Super-chargers increase a car's power by forcing extra air into the carburetor.Gray did the market research, crunched plenty of numbers. He believes the demand for the product is there. He's all set to give the business a try but can't get the loan he needs to get his invention into production. He's applied for Small Business Administration loans four times but has been denied.
"(Every bank) told me my business plan was the best they've seen," he said. "But then denied the loan."
The banks told him he doesn't have enough collateral. He is asking for $150,000 against his Midvale home which is worth $100,000.
Gray said he believes the SBA isn't doing much to help black entrepreneurs like himself, contrary to SBA claims. Applying for a loan has been like running through an endless maze, he said. "I feel like a dog chasing his tail."
Gray took his complaint to Josie Valdez of the SBA Monday during a National Association for the Advancement of Colored People meet-ing. Valdez, assistant director of the agency's minority enterprise division, was there to talk about a new SBA-NAACP partnership.
The pact will set aside $1.4 million to assist blacks applying for small business loans between now and 2000. The program aims to quadruple the amount of loans given to blacks.
But some, like Gray, believe the program is a political ploy that won't make much difference. Gray said it doesn't provide new money and the requirements for a loan won't change. Gray said he still won't get a loan, even under the pact. He believes the SBA isn't really interested in helping minorities.
"It seems odd that not one loan has been made to an African-American in Utah this year," Gray said. "I've made the requests, but none have been granted."
Valdez believes the pact will at least educate blacks about the SBA and about small-business loans. Some may not even know what the federal agency exists, she said.
She agrees that even with the pact, however, things are likely to get worse for minorities trying for small business loans. The federal government no longer keeps statistics on minority lending. Blacks receive far fewer loans than whites. In the future, there will be no way of proving that, Valdez said. Nobody will know minorities need help.
"It's easy for politicians to say everybody is equal," Valdez said. "They've never been a woman or a minority. It will never be equal. Without special programs, we will backslide. It bothers me to see cases like his (Gray's)."
SBA representatives are meeting in Washington, D.C., at the end of August and Valdez expects minority loans to be an issue. Most representatives are expected to fight the federal government's plan to quit keeping minority statistics.
Under the new plan, Valdez said, nobody will know how minorities are doing economically. Elected officials are the ones who can halt the plan.
"If they don't have the numbers, they won't do anything," Valdez said. "These programs will go away. We can't let them go away because they are the only thing that helps us."