Op-Ed: The State Of Black Businesses In Major Black US Cities

Here’s what’s working for and against our businesses in Black cities.

Fact: Not all cities treat Black businesses the same. 

Some have a better economy, stable employment rate and more progressive political leadership that can help take Black entrepreneurs over the top. Others struggle to create a diverse network and comprehensive plan to keep Black businesses in the black. 

Here’s the state of Black businesses in major cities that have a prominent melaninated population based on updated data from the U.S. census and several recent reports:

Based in Philadelphia, Ernest Owens is an award-winning journalist and CEO of Ernest Media Empire, LLC. Chat with him on Twitter @MrErnestOwens.

  1. Atlanta, Georgia

    Strengths: This city serves as a mecca for Black entrepreneurs given its rich history of Black political figures, HBCUs, and promotion of Black businesses. With one of the highest Black median household incomes ($48,161) and homeownership rates (44.7%), it’s not hard to figure out why many of our businesses thrive here. 

    Weaknesses: High crime rates and gentrification problems could make this city harder for young Black entrepreneurs to afford to launch their careers.

  2. Washington, D.C.

    Strengths: Washington, D.C., is historically one of the most Black cities on the East Coast, and it boasts a high Black median household income and homeownership rate. It also has a strong network for Black entrepreneurs that includes the National Black Chamber of Commerce, the Northern Virginia Black Chamber of Commerce and BizLaunch, an entrepreneurship program. 

    Weaknesses: Being the most gentrified city in the country has created issues pertaining to diversity and inclusion in the market.

  3. Baltimore, Maryland

    Strengths: High diversity and a citywide Black Chamber of Commerce that offers support for Black businesses, Baltimore holds the kind of political clout and visibility that is appealing for entrepreneurs serious about growth. 

    Weaknesses: Higher than the national average unemployment and poverty rates, among a history of racial injustice, could definitely play a factor in deterring some from doing business in the city.

  4. Memphis, Tennessee

    Strengths: Memphis boasts some of the highest Black-owned businesses numbers in the country along with low rates in cost of living and unemployment. Add to those facts that the city also has a growing Black business community with strong Southern roots and you have a knockout. 

    Weaknesses: Rapidly high crime rates and over a quarter of the city living in poverty are some major pitfalls facing the area.

  5. Detroit, Michigan

    Strengths: Detroit holds the title for being the Blackest major city in America. For those looking to innovate in a city where they won’t be “the only one,” this is the place. And don’t forget Motown Records was born here. 

    Weaknesses: The city has fallen under some tough economic times that’s led to higher wealth gaps, with skyrocketing poverty and unemployment rates.

  6. New Orleans, Louisiana

    Strengths: One of the most prominent tourist destinations in America is also one of the Blackest. New Orleans has impressive diversity across many of its local industries, a low unemployment rate, and close proximity to other major cities (Houston, Memphis, Atlanta). If you’re trying to hustle while having fun, this is the place to be. 

    Weaknesses: The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina still impacts the city’s unshakable high poverty and crime rates.

  7. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

    Strengths: The second largest city on the East Coast has more Black people in it than any other racial demographic. Philadelphia has a diverse political power structure that gives it the potential to advocate better for Black businesses. The city contains the headquarters for the African American Chamber of Commerce for Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware and has several city-funded departments for minority-owned business development. 

    Weaknesses: Philadelphia is the poorest major city in America and one of the most racially segregated as well. Recent political corruption scandals and a low number of registered Black-owned businesses (less than 3%) provides barriers of interest for emerging entrepreneurs.

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