Chapter 2The Source of GrowthThe Underserved Consumer

In 1996, I was enrolled at Clark Atlanta University studying for my master of business administration. This school emerged in its present form only in 1988, following the merger of Clark College and Atlanta University, both of which were more than a century old at the time of the combination. As a business school student, it made perfect sense to me: Why shouldn't the historically black colleges and universities participate in the mergers and acquisitions boom of the 80s?

Clark Atlanta University sits just a short distance southeast of the Georgia Dome in Atlanta's urban heart, in a city that has long had a thriving African American culture. Given that geographical context, you can imagine the enthusiasm that greeted the publication of Michael Porter's May/June 1995 article, titled “The Competitive Advantage of the Inner City,” published in the Harvard Business Review (HBR).1 Perhaps enthusiasm is too strong a word for an HBR article, but consider the circumstances: It was the mid-90s. The North American Free Trade Agreement treaty was just two years old, having been approved by Congress in 1993 and signed into law by President Clinton in 1994—and its effects were already being felt. Globalization, one of history's long arcs, was accelerating toward an apex driven by containerized shipping, just-in-time manufacturing, burgeoning communications revolutions, and the Western political realignment that the fall of Communism occasioned. ...

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