To Learn from Black History Claim It

This month, February, the month in which we casually celebrate Black history, NerdWallet an on-line magazine attempts to answer the question, “Which are the best U.S. cities to successfully operate a Black-owned business?”  NerdWallet crunched the numbers for 111 U.S. metropolitan areas with populations over 100,000 to find these Black-business meccas.

They used seven metrics to analyze those cities and focused on these questions:

1.    Is the overall economic environment strong?   They evaluated the number of businesses per 100 residents, median income for the black population, the cost of living and the unemployment rate in each place.

2.    Are existing black-owned businesses successful here? They looked at the percentage of black-owned businesses, percentage of black-owned businesses with paid employees and average revenue per year for black-owned businesses in each place.

Their analysis resulted in Columbus, Georgia being named the number one metro for Black business success, followed closely by Alabama’s state capital, Montgomery, in second place.  Before Alabama residents stick out their chests and proudly proclaim we are number 2, let’s examine some of the statistics.   Black businesses in Montgomery average about $29,000 in revenue, tens of thousands of dollars less than: #6 Fayetteville NC ($68,615), #71 Knoxville TN ($94,985), and #88MyrtleBeach-Conway SC ($115,822). Nationally Black-owned firms average about $39,000 in revenue. On top of that only 2.9% of the Black firms in Montgomery have employees, which was the lowest of all 111 metro areas.

To me this is disturbing and reflective of the fact that we leverage so little economic clout and evidence that we tend not to support our businesses with the same fervor as members of the Jewish, Indian, or Cuban communities for example. These groups all maintain a high level of solidarity, which allows for the exercise of significantly more influence using economic muscle in general, plus creates money flows in their communities.

Last week, WEUPTalk (94.5 FM – Huntsville AL) host David Person noted that Governor Bentley issued a public apology to India for the senseless assault of a citizen of India by a Madison city police officer. WhiIe there have been plenty of Black Alabamiams caught in similar situations (e.g. the Frazier incident of 2008 in Huntsville), not one sitting governor has offered as much as an “I’m sorry”.  Of course the Black community in Alabama does not project the same level of economic might.

We have lost the some of the economic hunger and entrepreneurial spirit as we have forgotten the community lessons learned in Durham, Atlanta and other cities. We have forgotten the importance things like entrepreneurship within agriculture, as we have literally walked away from a field that our ancestors mastered.  Our history reveals solutions for many of the issues we face, if we would only claim it.