Blacks own 11.9% of state's businesses

Md.'s percentage leads all states

only D.C. exceeds it

March 23, 2001|By Andrea K. Walker | Andrea K. Walker,SUN STAFF

African-Americans own nearly 12 percent of all businesses in Maryland, a higher percentage than in any other state in the union, according to figures released yesterday by the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Of the 400,200 businesses in Maryland, 11.9 percent are black-owned. Only Washington ranked higher, with 24.1 percent of its businesses owned by African-Americans.

The numbers, which look at 1997 and are released by the Commerce Department's Census Bureau every five years, reaffirmed the value of minority business to the state's economy, business leaders said. Maryland ranked equally as high in the last Commerce Department study in 1992.

"I think it shows that we're a vital force," said Sharon Williams, president of the African American Chamber of Commerce of Maryland.

The Commerce Department also released numbers on Hispanic businesses and later in the year will publish numbers on businesses owned by Native Americans, Asians and women.

Nationwide, the number of African-American businesses grew by 26 percent from 1992 to 1997 and generated $71.2 billion in revenue in 1997. Hispanic businesses increased 30 percent and generated $186.3 billion in revenue.

Business experts say Maryland's entrepreneurial prosperity is fueled in part by the state's affluent black community, particularly in Prince George's County. The state also has a large minority population and a government that is friendly to minority businesses. Last week, the General Assembly passed legislation proposed by Gov. Parris N. Glendening to increase the amount of contracting it does with these businesses from 14 percent to 25 percent.

"We have one of the biggest contracting bases in the country," said Richard Clinch, a University of Baltimore research associate.

Maryland also had the sixth- highest number of black firms in the country, although it's one of the smallest states. The state's 47,600 black businesses make up 5.8 percent of all the black businesses in the country. New York has the largest number at 86,500, or 10.5 percent of the nation's black firms.

The Commerce Department found that most of the businesses were small, and many business leaders say the next step is to help them grow.

"A good percentage of them are still mom-and-pop," Williams said. "It's going to take another generation to proceed to that next level."

The Hispanic population grew in record numbers in the last decade, but the Commerce Department numbers found they represented only 0.9 percent of the businesses in Maryland. Hispanic advocates expect that percentage to increase as newer immigrants establish roots.

"We have one Hispanic population that has been here 20 or 30 years. They are more settled and more professional," said Gigi Guzman, chairman of the Maryland Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. "Then we have a younger group that just moved here and isn't ready to start a business quite as easily."

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