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Black-Owned Businesses Fuel Economic Impact with Growth and Optimism

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Funding Remains a Top Challenge 

WASHINGTON /PRNewswire/ — Black entrepreneurship is on the rise, benefitting both local communities and the U.S. economy, according to SCORE, a resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration. This Black History Month, SCORE is celebrating America’s more than two million Black-owned small businesses and offering support and resources to Black entrepreneurs who want to launch or grow a business.

Black-Owned Businesses
Lenora Ebule, founder of Black- and woman-owned business Bailan Spice, successfully funded and scaled her startup with support from her SCORE mentor.

“As new small business applications continue at a record-setting pace, Black business owners are thriving, but face unique challenges no matter what their business stage. SCORE is here to provide the tools to meet and overcome these challenges on the road to success,” said SCORE CEO Bridget Weston.

In a recent SCORE data report, Black business owners reported a 23% uptick in annual revenue growth – twice as fast as overall U.S. employer-businesses. Black-owned small businesses also added employees at double the rate of all other U.S. businesses. Despite these gains, Black entrepreneurs struggle to find funding, citing difficulty securing loans or a lack of trusted banking relationships.

A free, virtual SCORE webinar, “How To Find Funding Opportunities For Black-Owned Businesses,” on Feb. 7 will discuss financial opportunities available to the Black community. Click here to register or learn more. “The key is to learn what the different options are, where to find them and most importantly, how to qualify,” explains presenter Phyllis Johnson of PKJ Consulting. 

In addition to offering small business workshops and training, SCORE’s nationwide network of expert business mentors can provide Black business owners with critical guidance and connections, customized to the needs of each entrepreneur. Mentoring can take place in-person, virtually or via email and is always free of charge.

“Without my mentor and SCORE, I would not have been able to get the funding I needed to grow,” says Lenora Ebule, SCORE Memphis client and founder of Bailan Spice. “I started with one store with one product and I have gone to an entire range of nine products in more than 30 stores, including Kroger. Working with SCORE has helped me tremendously and I believe it would help any business.”

Visit SCORE for Black Entrepreneurs to learn more.

About SCORE:
Since its launch nearly 60 years ago, SCORE has helped more than 11 million entrepreneurs start or grow a business. SCORE’s 10,000 volunteers provide free mentoring, workshops and educational services nationwide. Visit SCORE at www.score.org. Follow @SCOREMentors on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. 

Funded [in part] through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. 

SOURCE SCORE

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Consumer Corner

7 Ways to Reduce Energy Bills During Summer Heat

The summer is when we see homeowners strategizing about how to keep their homes cool and comfortable while sticking to their household budgets,

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The summer is when we see homeowners strategizing about how to keep their homes cool and comfortable while sticking to their household budgets,

 (Family Features) With temperatures forecasted to run at least 2 degrees higher than historical averages across more than half the country, according to projections from AccuWeather, heat waves may lead to soaring air-conditioning bills this summer.

“The summer is when we see homeowners strategizing about how to keep their homes cool and comfortable while sticking to their household budgets,” said Michael Williford, HVAC service manager at Hiller Plumbing, Heating, Cooling & Electrical. “We work with customers to keep their current HVAC systems running smoothly or upgrade to more efficient systems, which can make a huge difference in their utility bills. In addition, there are many other ways homeowners can keep their energy costs down during the hot summer months.”

Consider these smart, practical, cost-cutting tips for dialing down your energy bills.

Service HVAC Systems Regularly
To ensure the best cooling performance and efficiency possible, find a licensed contractor to keep your heating and cooling system well-maintained and serviced throughout the year. There are some tasks many homeowners can handle on their own, like keeping outdoor units free of debris and changing air filters. However, bringing in a professional 1-2 times a year for maintenance and to ensure proper function of ductwork and electrical components is also essential.

Use Appliances During Non-Peak Hours
Rather than using stoves, ovens and clothing dryers in the afternoon hours, consider doing so early in the morning or late in the evening. Peak time for many electricity providers is noon-6 p.m., meaning using appliances that heat up your home outside of this timeframe when conventional heating and cooling systems are likely running full throttle can help lower energy costs.

Upgrade Your Systems to an Energy-Saving Heat Pump
The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) incentivizes homeowners who opt for energy-efficient HVAC upgrades, including qualified heat pumps, which can boost seasonal energy efficiency ratios and increase efficiencies. For example, Mitsubishi Electric heat pumps provide more energy-efficient cooling that may equal cost and energy savings as well as a reduced carbon footprint for homeowners. These systems are equipped with inverter or variable-speed technology that allows systems to automatically ramp up or down the required amount of energy depending on the room’s capacity. Although annual savings vary, some homeowners can save as much as $1,000 per year by switching to an all-electric heat pump.

Fire Up the Grill
When temperatures soar, use the grill for cooking to help lower energy usage and save on air-conditioning costs. Alternatively, toaster ovens, air fryers and slow cookers use less energy than larger conventional stoves or ovens. Get creative by cooking a pizza in a chiminea or smoking favorite meats as alternatives to using your oven.

Stop Cooling Empty Rooms
One mistake many homeowners make is forgetting to adjust their temperature settings when leaving the house. Whether you’re headed to the beach for the weekend or just headed to work for the day, blasting the air conditioner in an empty house can result in unnecessarily high utility bills. Multi-zone, all-electric heat pumps like those from Mitsubishi Electric allow homeowners to set the comfort level and adjust the temperature in each room, so you don’t have to waste energy cooling unoccupied rooms. With a smartphone app, you can even adjust the settings remotely.

Install a Smart Electric Panel
Installing a smart electrical panel alongside an all-electric heat pump enables homeowners to monitor and control energy consumption on-site or remotely using a smartphone for better overall efficiency and utility cost savings.

Harness the Sun’s Energy with Solar Panels
According to the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, the amount of sunlight that strikes the Earth’s surface in 90 minutes could power the world’s total energy usage for a full year. Investing in solar panels can help decrease energy bills and increase your home’s sustainability. Additionally, some utility providers and government entities, including the IRA, offer incentives to help reduce installation costs. Plus, solar-sourced power pairs well with all-climate heat pumps, which require minimal electricity to operate.

Find more ideas to dial down energy usage (and bills) this summer at MitsubishiComfort.com.

Photos courtesy of Shutterstock


SOURCE:
Mitsubishi Electric

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Business and Finance

The Growing Dilemma: Renting vs. Buying a Home

“Renting or buying? A dilemma growing among prospective homeowners as they question the financial impact. Find out the emotional and financial value associated with homeownership in this Bank of America report.”

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Buying a home has always been considered a significant investment, a cornerstone of financial stability and future security. However, a recent Bank of America Homebuyer Insights Report reveals a growing number of prospective homebuyers who fear that renting could have detrimental effects on their financial future. With high interest rates and soaring home prices, the uncertainty surrounding the decision to rent or buy has only intensified. This article delves into the reasons behind this dilemma and explores the emotional and financial value associated with homeownership.

A message from Matt Vernon, Head of Consumer Lending, Bank of America

The Rising Uncertainty:
The report reveals that 57% of respondents are unsure whether it is the right time to buy a home, compared to 48% from the previous year. This trend is particularly prominent among first-time homebuyers, with 62% expressing uncertainty. Higher interest rates and escalating home prices have left renters questioning the feasibility of homeownership in the current market. Matt Vernon, Head of Consumer Lending at Bank of America, recognizes this growing concern but emphasizes that research consistently supports the belief that owning a home is the best long-term decision for most prospective homebuyers.

Population Flows and Supply Challenges:
Complicating the decision-making process are the continuing population flows across the United States. As stated in the Bank of America Institute’s On the Move publication, cities in the South have experienced substantial inflows of people, primarily driven by younger generations. Despite an increase in housing supply to accommodate these changes, the supply of rental properties in some areas falls short of meeting the demands of growing populations. Consequently, while 37% of respondents prefer renting for now, 81% of prospective buyers still plan to purchase a home in the near future.

Emotional Value of Homeownership:
The report highlights the emotional and financial benefits of homeownership, with a majority of homeowners and prospective homebuyers recognizing these advantages. Homeownership offers a sense of permanence, emotional stability, control over living space, and fulfillment, according to the survey. However, baby boomers appear to be an exception to this outlook, with 80% favoring renting over buying. They value the freedom from property maintenance, financial responsibilities, and enjoy the flexibility of choosing when and where to move.

Lack of Confidence and Lessons Learned:
Prospective homebuyers also express a lack of confidence in various aspects of the homebuying process, including understanding financing, interest rates, homebuying terminology, and grant programs. However, meeting with lending specialists can be beneficial in exploring assistance programs, such as Bank of America’s down payment and closing cost grants. Furthermore, the report reveals that 66% of current homeowners would have done something differently when buying their first home, such as saving more for a down payment or considering other neighborhoods.

The Bank of America Community Homeownership Commitment:

The Bank of America Community Homeownership Commitment is a $15 billion program aimed at assisting low- and moderate-income homebuyers. This initiative is designed to address the lack of confidence expressed by prospective buyers in understanding various aspects of the homebuying process. Through the commitment, Bank of America offers down payment and closing cost grants, as well as access to lending specialists who can provide guidance on financing options, interest rates, and grant programs. The program also takes into account the lessons learned by current homeowners, with the goal of empowering potential buyers to make informed decisions and achieve successful homeownership.

About Bank of America Institute
Bank of America Institute is dedicated to uncovering powerful insights that move business and society forward. Established in 2022, the Institute is a think tank that draws on data and analyses from across the bank and the world to provide timely and original perspectives on the economy, sustainability, and global transformation. The Institute leverages the depth and breadth of the bank’s proprietary data, from approximately 68 million consumer and small business clients, 56 million verified digital users, $4.2 trillion in total payments in 2022 and $1.4 trillion in consumer and wealth management deposits. From this robust data set, the Institute provides a unique perspective on the health of the economy. It also elevates thought leadership from throughout the bank that addresses long-term trends and shares these findings with the general public.

Bank of America
Bank of America is one of the world’s leading financial institutions, serving individual consumers, small and middle-market businesses and large corporations with a full range of banking, investing, asset management and other financial and risk management products and services. The company provides unmatched convenience in the United States, serving approximately 69 million consumer and small business clients with approximately 3,800 retail financial centers, approximately 15,000 ATMs (automated teller machines) and award-winning digital banking with approximately 57 million verified digital users. Bank of America is a global leader in wealth management, corporate and investment banking and trading across a broad range of asset classes, serving corporations, governments, institutions and individuals around the world. Bank of America offers industry-leading support to approximately 4 million small business households through a suite of innovative, easy-to-use online products and services. The company serves clients through operations across the United States, its territories and more than 35 countries. Bank of America Corporation stock is listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: BAC).

For more Bank of America news, including dividend announcements and other important information, visit the Bank of America newsroom and register for news email alerts.

SOURCE Bank of America Corporation

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Consumer Corner

High-ROI Spring Home Projects

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(Family Features) Spring is nature’s cue to renew and refresh. Whether you’re looking to add value for potential sale or simply create a more comfortable living space, you can make the most of the season and breathe new life into your home with projects that provide a high return on investment (ROI).

Consider these top home renovation projects to tackle this spring from the experts at Westlake Royal Building Products – a leader in innovation, design and production of exterior and interior building products including siding, trim, mouldings, roofing, stone, windows, outdoor living and more – based on the 2024 Cost vs. Value Report from “Remodeling Magazine.”

Remodel the Kitchen and Bathroom
The average seller can expect an 96.1% return on a light touch to the kitchen, according to the report, and 73.7% on a modest bathroom renovation. Because personal preferences can vary widely among buyers, minor upgrades can provide a higher ROI than large, upscale remodels. A few easy ways to refresh your kitchen or bathroom include updating shelving or adding new hardware. Decorative trim and mouldings are also cost-effective ways to add visual interest.

Upgrade with Stone Veneer
As natural and textured home trends continue, homeowners are gravitating toward stone veneer, or manufactured stone, as it can replicate the look of real stone, adding comfort, character and beauty to homes. An option like Versetta Stone from Westlake Royal Building Products offers the authentic, handcrafted look of stone in a panelized format that’s easy to install with nails and screws. There’s also no need to paint, coat or seal once installed. Ideal for its ability to add texture and dimension throughout both home interior (accent walls and fireplaces) and exterior applications (siding, entryways and walkways), stone veneer – which comes with a 153.2% ROI – can influence mood, emotion and energy levels while serving as a focal point of your home’s design.

Install New Windows
Depending on the harshness of winter in your area and the age of your home, you may notice certain windows have developed drafts, allowing cold air to enter and heat to escape. Replacing drafty or outdated windows with modern, energy-efficient models is one of the most effective ways to enhance your home’s energy efficiency. Additionally, a vinyl window replacement brings approximately 67.1% ROI.

Replace Siding
In some cases, applying a fresh coat of paint is enough to refresh your home. However, if you’re looking to enhance your home’s curb appeal while making a long-term impact, consider installing new siding or replacing existing siding. Because vinyl siding serves as an additional layer of insulation, improving the energy efficiency of your heating and cooling systems, it offers a 80.2% ROI. Weather-resistant, low-maintenance siding like Celect Cellular Composite Siding, which is now available in on-trend colors including Imperial Red, a robust shade of red; Deep Pewter, a compellingly modern forest green; and Timberland, a rich, natural brown, won’t warp, sag or buckle and is built to withstand even the harshest weather conditions. Its patented interlocking joints provide a seamless look and it’s easy to install in small spaces, like along a knee or pony wall.

Update Decking
If you want to entertain guests outside, spring is a perfect time to get your patio or deck ready. While a new coat of stain can update your existing deck’s appearance and help protect it, spring is also an ideal time to build a deck if your home doesn’t currently have one. When choosing a decking material, cost and maintenance are two factors to consider. Composite decking offers a 68.2% ROI and is low maintenance as it’s not susceptible to cracking, warping and weather damage.

Find more ideas to update your home this spring at WestlakeRoyalBuildingProducts.com.


SOURCE:
Westlake Royal Building Products

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