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November 01, 2011

Starbucks Collects for Job Growth Program

by Deborah Block

The weak economy in the United States has made it tough for many people to find work.  The Starbucks coffee company, based in Seattle, Washington, is trying to promote job growth through its new Create Jobs for USA program.  This month, the company began collecting donations from its customers that will be loaned to small businesses that promise to hire people in lower income communities.

“I’ll take a grande coffee of the day please, with room for cream. And I’d like to donate $5 to the create jobs program," said Sally Shafor at a Starbucks in Alexandria, Virginia.

She has a job, but she knows people who don’t.  "I know that the economy has made it difficult for many people to find jobs these days, and so if there is any way I can help, I’m happy to," she said.

Starbucks is hoping millions of customers like Shafor will be happy to contribute money at its stores in the United States.  Adam Brotman, a spokesman for Starbucks, says the company is giving $5 million to get the program started. “It’s no longer enough for a company, in this day and age, to just serve its customers, employees and shareholders.  It’s a company’s responsibility, as a corporate citizen, to serve the very communities where they do business," he said.

Brotman says small businesses create the most new jobs, but many of them can’t hire new workers now because they are not able to get credit. "We went looking for a way we could put our dollars to work in underserved communities [with] small businesses and community businesses, because they would have the most impact for job creation," he said.

Starbucks is covering the program's administrative costs. The donations are being given to the Opportunity Finance Network, a non-profit that works with 180 local financial institutions which provide loans to low-income communities.

“The reason that we chose the Opportunity Finance Network to be our partner is because they have already selected the most impactful of these community development financial institutions, or CDFI’s, serving the most in-need neighborhoods in the country,' said Brotman.

Mark Pinsky, chief executive officer at the Opportunity Finance Network, says the businesses must be able to hire people quickly.  “It will create construction jobs for people who build homes or office buildings.  It will create jobs for teachers and school administrators.  And it will take care of people who work in offices," he said.

He says the small businesses will be audited to make sure the donations are being used to create jobs.  

Economist Mark Zandi at Moody's Analytics says it is up to private industry to help stimulate the economy - especially since President Obama and the U.S. Congress have not been able to agree on a jobs creation program. “The government can help during crisis and try to fill the void when people are panicked, but at the end of the day, we need the private companies and private sector to come together and create those jobs," he said.

He notes it may not be easy for Starbucks to get donations during a recession.  “I don’t know if this is going to be a success, but hopefully, this is an idea that captures the imagination and people contribute," he said.

Adam Brotman says Starbucks DOES hope to inspire other companies. “That they will either join us, or partner with us, or they’ll do something similar, because we just hope to be a catalyst and an inspiration for change," he said.