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2021 12 People: Samuel G. Knox

Priority of Progress

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As business leaders faced challenge after challenge this year, Samuel G. Knox was spinning obstacles into opportunities.

“I’m an optimist,” Knox, 59, says. “My father recommended a book to me, and the overall philosophy was that every adversity carries the seed of an equal or greater benefit. I’ve really held onto that.”

Knox is the executive director of Minorities in Business of Southwest Missouri and the managing editor of Unite Publication, a monthly newspaper he co-founded with Mark Dixon in 1988 to provide an alternative to the stereotypical and sometimes negative depictions of African-Americans in local news media.

He says news organizations cater their coverage to target the broadest populations, which leaves a gap for Unite Publication to fill.

“We continue to be as viable and relevant today as we were then because we still cover news and information about a culture and a community that the mainstream and local media will never have a grasp on,” he says.

When COVID-19 hit, Knox reassessed the paper’s primarily print distribution system to get crucial information to his audience.

“Our target audience was also considered a vulnerable audience with COVID-19, in terms of underlying conditions that made the virus worse in those individuals. So it was imperative that we get information and resources to them,” Knox says.

Unite Publication assembled a COVID-19 Community & Public Health Resource Directory online and in print. The directory was produced in partnership with Prosper Springfield, Community Partnership of the Ozarks and Springfield NAACP, and Knox says the information has had substantial reach.

The energy of the Black Lives Matter movement also spurred opportunities for Knox at Minorities in Business.

“We had an uptick in membership and a number of calls asking us for an African-American or a Black business directory,” Knox says. The organization compiled an online directory in response to the demand.

The organization’s mission is to bring opportunities to women- and minority-owned businesses through advocacy, networking and capacity building. One of Knox’s main goals is to significantly increase the number of minority-owned businesses in Springfield.

“We’re creating jobs, building wealth and creating multigenerational wealth, and that’s a win-win proposition for the entire community,” he says.

Minorities in Business has 143 members, and in spring 2021, Knox is announcing a strategic plan aimed at addressing imbalances in financial literacy and economic education.

“It is vitally important that we continue to assist our business community in the recovery from this unprecedented year and promote a new focus on ownership and investment,” Knox says.

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